Tantrums happen to young children every so often. No one likes it but it’s a normal part of growing up.
Often, tantrums are caused by children being unable to express their feelings in a healthy manner. As parents, while we’re aware that temper tantrums are normal, seeing your child have one is still a painful, sometimes embarrassing experience.
Developing emotional literacy is key to help your child learn to manage their emotions. It is the ability to identify their feelings, label them, understand how and why they are feeling a certain way, and knowing how to deal with those feelings.
It’s also about being able to recognize emotions in other people and being sensitive to other people’s feelings.
Teaching your child how to express and communicate their emotions in words so they can be understood by others is vital to a child’s cognitive and social learning. Emotional literacy is an important component for building emotional intelligence and plays a huge role in your child’s social and emotional development.
Here are some tips to help your child develop emotional literacy in order for them gain better control of their emotions and develop empathy for others.
Move Past Distractions
We all have a love-hate relationship with technology. We love it in the sense that it helps us connect and communicate with greater ease. But we also hate it for the amount of time it takes away from us. Time which could be used in forming and growing real relationships with the people around us.
Being able to stop to listen and pay attention is an important skill. It takes time to practice and a lot of intention to master. Without face-to-face, versus screen-to-screen, interaction, we have little or no chance to learn how to process empathy. It is a vital interpersonal skill that is slowly beginning to deteriorate.
The first step to developing emotional literacy is to put aside distractions and connect with your child emotionally daily. Take time to unplug and really connect. Reach out and talk about little things that matter to them and ask how they are feeling.
Doing this on a daily basis can bring more openness to your relationship.
Exercise Eye Contact
The key to good social communication begins with making eye contact. Maintaining eye contact allows people to connect more genuinely. It’s also a sign of respect to the person spoken to and shows confidence in the person speaking.
Teach emotional literacy to your child by getting on their level whenever you’re speaking to them. Talk to them face to face and maintain eye contact and reinforce it whenever they are making conversations with you and other people.
Like any other critical social skill, making eye contact takes practice. Become your child’s partner in developing this skill.
Build Vocabulary for Feelings
Often triggered by unregulated emotions such as anxiety or anger, tantrums and meltdowns are a common occurrence among young kids. A way to help them overcome this is to develop their emotional literacy using words.
Being able to label an emotion or feeling helps a child describe how he or she feels with more accuracy.
There’s a wide spectrum of emotions that people go through on different occasions. Building your child’s vocabulary for these emotions can help them be more sensitive toward how other people feel. This will help them respond more appropriately.
Begin by using tools such as flash cards, picture books, etc. Have your child guess the emotions displayed in pictures of people. Let them point out the nuances between each facial expression. Ask them to explain what made them associate a slight curve of the lips or movement of eyebrows to certain emotions.
Engage Kids in Conversations about their Feelings
Teaching your kids emotional literacy requires practice. What better way to do it than by engaging your child in conversations about their feelings?
Teach your child to use “I feel” statements when expressing their emotions. If what they’re feeling is caused by another person, the use of “I feel” statements lets your child express and take ownership of their emotions instead of immediately putting the blame on others.
You can expand this further by engaging in discussions about shows/films you watch together or the books you read. Take a moment to talk about how a character may feel, given the circumstances they’ve found themselves in.
This all boils down to building awareness in your child about the emotions they feel and what others around them also feel.
Here at ABC Academy, our aim is to teach young kids values they need to support their overall development. Please call or visit us for more information.