The very first emotions we learn to recognize are happy and sad – feliz and triste. It’s easy to quickly identify when a little baby is happy, those big toothless smiles make us melt. We just as easily also recognize when babies aren’t so happy, as they communicate with cries and wails that demand our attention.
How Are You Feeling Today?
When we start our day in circle time and we talk about how we’re feeling, a common response is “feliz!” Children have a whole array of emotions even if they are not able to display or communicate them as well as adults can. When they are feeling or experiencing some difficult emotions, we often feel frustrated because it is inconvenient for our schedules. Their difficult emotions often take away time from what we are doing. Often, those moments that are most frustrating to us, are the ones that are most important to them.
Feelings without Words
When our child is throwing a temper tantrum, especially in public, we try to calm them down as fast as possible without giving into each and every whim. We can all sympathize with the terrible twos; we so eagerly hope they will quickly grow out of it so we won’t have to deal with those embarrassing moments and dodge those side-eye glances and unspoken judgment. But we have all been there. Our boy or girl is simply trying to become their own person, they want what little independence they can have, and they only have so many words or ways to say so.
Listening to Feelings
However, as they get a little older it’s key to start talking about emotions and feelings and giving a word to what they are experiencing. As children move beyond happy and sad they start to understand fear, surprise, jealousy, and even injustice. Help give them a voice to what they are feeling inside. When they act up or behave in a way that is difficult to explain, start digging behind the outward behavior to unfold what is hiding on the inside. Behind every behavior has an explanation.
Setting an Example
As adults we have the unique opportunity of setting an example for children and as parents that influence is significantly more impactful. Children are constantly observing, watching, and ultimately imitating. When we feel sad, down, or frustrated we can take the opportunity to explain why we feel that way and talk it through with our kids. If we are angry, we can gently explain how certain behaviors and actions upset us. As we vocalize our reasoning, explain our feelings, and show our children how to express themselves, you can be sure they will be watching.
We of course share the common goal of happiness for our children. We want only the best for them. Why not start by honing in on all the emotions they experience daily so that you can share the journey with them through all the highs and lows.