Preschoolers may look older than toddlers, but don’t be fooled by their expansive vocabulary and growing independence—they can still feel overwhelmed by strong emotions. Children’s brains grow rapidly and can’t always keep pace, so it’s important that you help your preschooler develop healthy ways to cope with their emotions when they seem overwhelming. In this blog, we’ve outlined a few ways to help your child calm the inner storm when emotional waters rise.
Name, Claim, & Tame Emotions
Kids experience their emotions physically, like an upset stomach, a pouty lip, or uncontrollable tears. When your child is experiencing emotions they cannot name, they have difficulty:
- Understanding why they feel the way they do
- Understanding what they’re feeling
- Deciding how to respond
When children can’t name their emotions, they can’t understand or manage them. Naming emotions goes a long way toward emotional regulation and management. Next time your child is upset, try naming the emotion they’re feeling. If they’re upset about something tangible like not being able to get ice cream say, “I’m sorry we couldn’t get ice cream. I understand how frustrating it feels not to get to do something you really want to do.” If it’s something you did, say something like, “The way that I responded to you must have made you sad. I’m sorry.”
Lead by Example
How you respond to strong emotions sends a message to your child and teaches them how to respond to negative emotions in the future. We teach children through our behaviors, actions, and responses. If your child’s coach upset you, your child will pick up on how you yelled discrepancies at their coach. If you respond to their coach in a calm tone–your child will pick up on that, too. How you handle situations now will set up a blueprint for your child in the future. If you mess up, don’t worry; use your experience as a lesson in emotional management.
Read Books About Feelings
Books are a great way to teach children concepts in ways that aren’t intimidating or hard to understand. Countless children’s books help preschoolers learn how to identify their emotions and cope in healthy ways. Try finding books on grief, anger, sadness, happiness, and fear that show emotions through a main character’s perspective.
Stay Calm & Support Your Child
We’ve all witnessed or have been that parent who is getting into a full-on argument with their three-year-old about putting a sweater on. And, while it’s frustrating, no matter the scenario, you should never react to a negative situation by losing your temper. Be aware of what triggers you to react and be sure to separate the feelings these events stir up from your child’s experience. In these situations, it’s always best to stay calm and support your child.
The last thing you want to do is react the same way they do–furthering their desire to overreact.
Preschool is hard, especially when your child is used to spending every waking moment with you. Instead of feeding into your preschooler’s negative behaviors, use these tips to help them cope with their emotions–before the flood gates open.