Have you experienced a preschool meltdown today? We have four children and our youngest is now six, so we’re past the preschool stage. But I remember it so well.
I’d see one of my kids go running by having the time of their life. 30 seconds later, they’re dissolving into a puddle of tears, generally crying so hard that they couldn’t tell me what was wrong.
Initially, I thought I just had emotional kids. (I can be pretty emotional myself, so it was no secret where they got it from.) But it’s difficult to help preschoolers manage their emotions in general.
After all, understanding emotions can be difficult at any age, but for little ones, it is even more challenging. Between the newness of their developing emotions and their limited vocabulary, it can be very frustrating for them to communicate what they are feeling.
Helping preschoolers understand their emotions and teaching them the right way to express those feelings is an important task for parents and caregivers. Here are some tips that can help as you navigate emotions with your little one.
Read on to get some helpful tips for teaching your preschooler to manage his or her feelings. And if your child struggles with worry, don’t miss our printable Worry Journal for kids!
Images c/o: Yaruta & Kotangens / depositphotos
5 Tips for Helping Preschoolers Manage Their Emotions
Never Refer to an Emotion as “Bad” or “Wrong”
The first thing to remember when you’re helping preschoolers manage their emotions is that there is simply no such thing as a bad emotion. However, there are inappropriate reactions to emotions. By labeling an emotion as bad or wrong, you run the risk of your child taking that label upon themselves.
If your preschooler is worried that he or she is feeling something “bad”, they are far more likely to keep their emotions bottled up and will face even more challenges to understand and cope with emotions.
Take Time to Talk About Your Emotions and Reactions
Using age-appropriate conversation, share how you feel from time to time with your preschooler and what has caused that feeling. If your emotions are tied to something your child did, make it clear that it is about the action and not about them as a person.
For example, explaining that you love her very much, but backtalk when you’ve asked her to do something makes you feel upset and raise your voice, helps to put the focus on your emotion and reaction toward the action. Be sure to explain your happiness and joy, as well as anger and sadness.
Help Them Expand Their Emotional Vocabulary
As your preschooler begins to mature, he or she can begin to explore more words that relate to emotions. Happy, sad, and angry can begin to develop into excitement, disappointment, and frustration as they start to understand that their emotions are more complex.
Use these descriptors as you talk about your own emotions and relate them to those base emotions to help your child make sense of these expanded feelings.
Our English and Spanish feelings flashcards are a great way to help little ones learn to describe their emotions! Pick up a set for your child here.
Guide Them to Identifying Their Feelings
Instead of using phrases like “I know you are angry”, open up a conversation that will allow your child to identify their own feelings and emotions. Sometimes, a reaction might lead us to think our child is angry or sad, when they’re really feeling frustrated or have had their feelings hurt by someone else.
By giving them the power to own and name their emotions, you’ll build the coping skills that will help them along as they move slowly toward adulthood.
Give Them Outlets of Expression Beyond Just Words
Sometimes it can be hard to communicate how a child is feeling through words. If your little one can’t express himself or herself clearly, ask your child to draw a picture of what happened or how they feel. Role playing with dolls or action figures can sometimes be effective for getting to the bottom of a tricky emotion.
As they show you the scenario leading up to an upset or sadness, you can help them by asking questions that lead them to use their words to express emotions.
Helping preschoolers understand their emotions is just the first step in a long process of navigating feelings and reactions throughout their lives. Remember to keep things simple and get on their level, then expand the concepts as they mature and grow.
Stop by to see these other posts for happy parenting!
And get even more tips for your parenting journey on my Parenting with Joy Pinterest board!