Ever wondered why kids throw temper tantrums and have meltdowns instead of verbalizing their emotions? Well, they do that because it is hard for them to understand what they feel. Just like adults, kids get nervous, worried, frustrated, jealous, excited, embarrassed, angry, and all sorts of emotions for kids that adults experience. But all these feelings are summed up and expressed as temper tantrums.
Many parents don’t know what to do with the tantrums their kids throw, or how to make them stop. Most of us advise our kids to “use words” and open up to us whenever they feel disgruntled. We sometimes even ground them when their tantrums get “out of hand”. But that is not the way to go. It is our duty as adults to first teach young children about basic emotions before asking them to cool down their tantrums or to “speak out”.
The key focus of this article is to help parents teach their children about emotions.
Things Parents Need to Know about Kids’ Emotions
It is expected from parents to know everything about their children, however, that is not a realistic expectation. Parenting is difficult and dealing with your kids’ emotions is harder than you might imagine. It is recommended that you seek help for this, for example taking online job training courses, specialized in child care that can help with understanding your child’s emotions better.
#1 Kids too can mask deep emotions
This is not an exclusive adult thing. Kids too can fake a smile and hide their emotional truth. They plaster funny smiles on their faces all the time, especially when lying about something they did or didn’t do. A kid will tell you how delicious their lunch was, smiling from corner to corner while at it, and maybe they are hiding the fact that a bully in their class stole their lunch. They try to act like everything is just fine when, in fact, deep down, what they need is your support. You need to observe your kid keenly in order to distinguish their genuine happy face from a fake “happy face”.
It is also important for parents to teach kids that people, especially strangers, can mask their true emotions when intending to hurt other people.
#2 There are different intensity levels to every kid’s feelings.
The anger your kid experiences today isn’t necessarily at the same intensity level as the anger they experienced yesterday or the anger they will experience in the future. The emotions you observe in one child don’t necessarily have to have the same intensity as the emotions you observe in a different child, even when they were offended “equally”. It is important to acknowledge the intensity of every child’s emotions. To help them relax, your body language, tone of your voice, and actions should show the child that you have heard and understood the depth of the emotions for kids.
#3 Triggers are real and they aren’t necessarily obvious
A trigger happens outside of a person and pushes them into exhibiting emotions that no one can explain. This happens to kids as it does to adults. If your child is happy in one moment and then starts crying all of a sudden, it is important that you follow up to know what might have triggered that sudden emotional shift. Kids should also know that the emotions their friends experience aren’t always caused by obvious reasons.
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#4 It is not abnormal to experience multiple emotions simultaneously
Kids’ emotions sometimes show being layered of , and that’s perfectly normal. Your kids could be excited that you are moving to a new city, for example, but you should talk to them about anxiety and sadness because they might feel mixed emotions after saying goodbye to their friends.
When you move to the new city you can help them adjust easier by driving around in the new place. Instead of taking public transportation where your child will feel overwhelmed surrounded by strangers, it would be best if you rent or even buy a car. Just don’t forget to obtain an international driving permit so you can drive around freely in the new city.
#5 Emotions are reflections of thoughts
Thoughts and feelings go hand in hand. If your child’s thoughts are negative, they will more often than not exhibit negative emotions. A child who thinks lowly about their potential in life will get annoyed, depressed, and frustrated most of the time. Maybe your kid isn’t cranky; he just needs a little self-esteem boost. You might not care enough but increase the kid’s moods matter a lot for both parents and children.
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Why You Should Teach Your Kids about Emotions
Kids who know how to get in touch with and express their emotions are mostly:
- Empathic. They can connect with their friends and family members at an emotional level.
- Top performers, both in school and in life. Their self-esteem is always up there.
- In stable relationships. They know how to make and keep friends.
- Healthy. They know how to guard their mental health and wellbeing.
- Well behaved. They know better than to throw temper tantrums.
- Resilient and good at coping with different life situations.
- Confident. They feel pretty good about their competence and capabilities.
How Many Types Of Emotions Do Kids Need To Know?
How to explain emotions to a child? For a start, teach your kids to identify, express, and manage these 5 feelings in positive and constructive ways:
#1 Teach Kids about Anger Feelings
Let your kid know that it is okay to feel annoyed, pained, or frustrated when someone provokes them inappropriately; when someone grabs their toy, for example. Make them understand that feeling hostility towards other people is perfectly normal. But, and this is a big BUT, train them to regulate their anger and to react appropriately. Talk anger through with the child as it happens.
Say something like: “It looks like someone did something really bad to you” or “it seems like someone made you really mad”. Mimic their sad face while at it as a show of solidarity. Showing genuine concern validates the child’s feelings, so they feel safe opening up to you. That is the opening you need to explain to the child that as mad as they could be, it is not right to bite, hit, or insult the people who wrong them.
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#2 Emotions for Kids to know – Fear
Children get anxious and worried when things don’t go as normal. They perceive the abnormal as dangerous. That is why most kids are afraid of the dark, strangers, and unfamiliar places. If you realize that your child is afraid of something, validate that fear by saying something like: “That must have been very scary” or “sleeping in the dark sounds scary for sure”. Be calm and collected when doing it. Don’t force them to believe that everything will be fine because that is tantamount to downplaying their feelings.
#3 Increasing Mood for Kids Matter – Happiness
How to tell if a child is genuinely happy:
- The child knows that they have a choice; that they have the power to make a situation better. They don’t show the “why always me” attitude, dejection, or self-pity when in uncomfortable situations.
- They connect with people without the fear of being judged. They are confident in their own identity. They are not closed off or withdrawn.
- They have a plan. Maybe not exactly a well-thought-out plan, but they know what everyone expects from them. They are comfortable enough to take risks when working on a task.
If your child struggles to fix problems, connect with people, and/or come up with plans, chances are that the “happiness” you see in them is a mask for a negative underlying emotion. You need to spend more time with the child in order to see what is behind that mask.
#4 Understand the Sadness to express their feelings
Kids feel sad when they lose something/someone valuable to them or when they are let down by someone they look up to. They will be sad if they lose a friend, for example, either through distance or separation. They feel let down when their parents disagree or fight. You will know that your child is sad if they cry more than usual, becomes clingy, and becomes emotionally distant.
#5 Jealousy – teaching kids about this emotions
Jealousy comes to kids from as early as when they are 3 months old. They don’t even try to hide it. A baby will cry just because someone they love holds, feeds, or plays with another baby. 1-year olds get jealous when their siblings get presents and they don’t. Basically, jealousy in kids comes from the human nature of being territorial- wanting to possess and dominate. That is the good type of jealousy. Some kids, however, become jealous of others because they feel resented, inadequately loved, or helpless.
The first step to connecting emotionally with jealous kids is to assess your performance as a parent. Are you providing the child with all the love and material possessions they need to be comfortable? If you are, it is possible that the child is experiencing the good kind of jealousy. You just need to validate their feelings by apologizing for other people’s invasion of their space, while at the same time explaining to them that it is a good behavior to accommodate other people.
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It is after understanding the 5 basic emotions for kids can learn about more complex emotions such as shame, pride, and guilt. Complex emotions are built on basic emotions.
6 Ideas for Teaching Your Child about Emotions
Among other ideas for teaching children to understand and respond to their emotions, feelings, parents can:
#1 Create a safe space where the child can have and show emotions
Encourage your child to show emotions as opposed to fixing problems for them just so that they can stop being emotional. If the child is frustrated because their toy car won’t move, don’t help them out. Talk to them about frustrations. You can say something like: “It looks like you are not happy with your toy.
Is it frustrating you?” Depending on their response, go ahead to explain how frustrating life gets when things don’t go as expected. Make them feel proud of their ability to identify how they feel. Once you are on the same page, explain to them how to cope and problem-solve difficult situations; how to get their car moving again.
#2 Help your child relate their feelings to their body language
Some children need to be taught the art of recognizing their body language and labeling their feelings. If your child is angered by your refusal to give in to their demands, for example, make them realize what is happening with their body. Tell them: “baby, you are clenching your fist right now, your face is wrinkled, or you are raising your voice right now because you are angry that I said ‘No’”. Help them see how your “No” is affecting their happiness.
If, on the other hand, the child is happy because someone did something nice to them, say: “You are smiling and jumping because you are happy”. Make it a habit of pointing out and labeling the child’s emotions, as well as the emotions of other people in the child’s life (TV characters included).
#3 Role Playing
Pretend that you got hurt and ask your child to guess what you are feeling by assessing your gestures and facial expressions. Train the child to pay attention to the shape of your mouth, movement of eyes and eyebrows, hand movement, voice intonations, and breathing patterns. The child too can act as you do the guessing. They will get more comfortable with recognizing and expressing emotions the more you play different situations.
#4 Books and games about Emotions for kids
Read books together and try to recognize how different characters feel. If you don’t know the right book to read, you can try “How are you feeling?” by S. Freymann, J. Elffers.
Playing games together with your kid, on the other hand, gives you more chances to identify and help them notice changes in their emotions.
#5 Teach them how to cope with emotions
Teach them basic anger management skills, how to deal with uncomfortable emotions, and how to resolve conflicts peacefully. Teach them to treat people with respect no matter how angry or disappointed they may feel.
#6 Positive reinforcement
Make a habit of praising your child when they express emotions to you or to other people. Say something like: “I am proud of you for telling your friend that she offended you” or “thank you for letting me know how you feel”. If you did something wrong, it is good to admit your error and apologize to the child. That is how they’ll learn when and how to apologize. Positive reinforcement also means rewarding a child for expressing their feelings instead of getting grumpy.
How to Help a Highly Emotional Child Cope with Big Feelings
Here are some helpful calming skills to teach your highly emotional child:
- Practice deep breathing. Slow and quiet breathing can calm down an aggressive child.
- Distraction through counting. Train them to count anything in their vicinity, or even to count down from a big number like 100, in order to distract their mind from negative emotions.
- Brief time-outs. Train them to step out for a minute when disgruntled. Teach them to ask the teacher for a water break instead of misbehaving in class due to frustrations.
- Get them a calm-down kit.
- Involve them when finding a solution to their emotions. They will help you identify their mood boosters. Before you find their best booster, you can try their favorite songs and dances.
When to Seek Professional Help if the Emotions for kids are getting in the way of their personal development?
Seek professional help if the child’s emotions are getting in the way of their personal development. You will know it’s time if the child is unable to concentrate in class, they are unable to control their emotions even with your intervention, or if they start pushing their friends away. Before you take them to a psychiatrist, it is best that you first take them to their regular nurse.
Nurses who have passed The National Council Licensure Examination have the needed psychosocial integrity to handle kids with uncontrollable tantrums. The NCLEX-RN exam tests nurses on Behavioral Interventions, Therapeutic Communication, Stress Management, and Mental Health Concepts, among other qualifications that help nurses to handle a child’s pain, concerns, and stressors.
Conclusion about Emotions for Kids
Do you want your kid to be well-behaved? Well, what you need is to train them how to understand other people’s emotions, respond to their emotions, and help other people feel better. Create a culture in the home where everyone gives kind supportive words to cheer other people up. When kids feel supported, when they feel heard, it helps them bond with other people and consequently grows socially and psychologically.
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