Label the Emotion for Your Child
This can be simple. You see your little one is frustrated because they cannot complete a puzzle there are working on. Gently say, “I see you are feeling frustrated by this puzzle, can I help you?” No lengthy explanation necessary. Just a quick moment to name and validate what your little one is feeling. Acknowledging their feeling is also connecting with your child. Get on their level (for example, kneel next to them), touch your child (hold their hand or touch their shoulder), and let your little one know you hear them, see them, and understand them.
Use Feeling Faces
Sometimes it is easier not to show your child the emotion rather than telling them. Often times, when children are upset, talking can be overwhelming. Using a feeling faces chart (we like this one) is an easy way to help your child understand how they are feeling. Simply show the chart to your child and ask, “How are you feeling?” or “Are you feeling frustrated?” Use this chart when your child is not showing big emotions to practice!
Label Your Own Emotions
Talking about your own experience is a powerful tool as our children learn from our modeling. If you are feeling happy, say it! If you are feeling overwhelmed, let them know! Add in why you are feeling that way. Bonus points if you talk about what you might do to help yourself feel better or self-regulate. For example, “I am so excited for the birthday party tonight I want to scream and jump up and down, but instead I am going to take a deep breath and make a card to go with my gift.”
Talk About Emotions Using Books
When reading, take a minute and pause to ask your child how they think the character might be feeling. This is a powerful way to help your child identify emotions when they are in a relaxed state, and help begin to develop empathy!
Use a Thermometer
…and not the digital ones we use today! Think about big emotions as a thermometer. Your little one might start out “cool” or at a low temperature, and then something (or several things) trigger them to start “heating up” until they are boiling hot! Use an image of a thermometer to help your child identify when they are “heating up” so they can begin to “cool down.”