We all understand the frustration of not being understood. Sometimes we can forget that young children feel the same frustration, especially when they struggle to understand themselves. Our kids throw tantrums and have meltdowns not because they are bold, going through a phase or have hit the terrible twos. They are frustrated, angry, and overwhelmed but they don’t have the words or ability to tell us what they need. So they react in the only way they know-how: they erupt because that gets attention.
We might say to our kids, "Use your words," as they flail about shouting but really they don’t know what word to use or how to explain what they are experiencing. They are learning about themselves and the world they are in. It's our job to help them understand. Teaching our children about the broad spectrum of emotions is another stepping stone in their development in order to help them put names to their emotions.
The better able they are to understand their feelings, the less frustrated they will be in talking to us so we can understand what they are going through.
Young children respond well to rhyme, music, and dance. Singing songs is a great way to help them learn about their emotions, what they are called, and how they feel. There are many variations of songs that explore emotions. “If you’re happy and you know it,” is one we’re all familiar with and can easily be adapted to explore a broad range of feelings.
Learning through play is one of the best ways to engage young children. This is especially true with pre-schoolers, who can learn about the vast array of emotions we have.
Encourage Labelling Of Emotions
Young children often don’t have the vocabulary to express what they are feeling. It is a good idea to name the emotions you believe they are experiencing. If they fall and cry, say something like, "Oh you’re sad because your knee hurts," or "You got a fright when you fell. That must have been scary." By labelling their feelings, they will build on their language skills and learn the words associated with different feelings.
Read A Book
There are plenty of books available which highlight the different emotions. They can also explain in an age-appropriate way what they are and how a child feels. But even simply reading stories can encourage children to explore their own emotions, as well as those around them. By discussing the story and what the characters are feeling, children can relate to the characters in the book. This can, in turn, help them figure out their own feelings.