Children, especially preschoolers, are prone to outbursts. It is not unusual for them to throw a tantrum when they cannot find their favorite toy or their snacks are not in the specific shapes they want. Usually, these tantrums go away as they get older. But some kids still struggle to manage their emotions even as they get older. These outbursts are sometimes just a matter of maturity or caused by stress and anxiety. Most often, though, it’s just about emotional regulation and self-control, which is achievable by being emotionally aware.
What is Emotional Awareness?
Emotional awareness is the ability to identify your and other people’s emotions. It is managing your own emotions appropriately while also recognizing how others see you. Children need to develop emotional awareness because it helps them understand when and how to use their strengths, discover their weaknesses, and understand how their actions affect others.
When kids are emotionally aware, they can:
- recognize their strengths and challenges
- talk about their needs and feelings
- identify other people’s needs and feelings
- stay calm during stressful situations
- ask for help when needed
- have a growth mindset
While children are prone to emotional outbursts, the good news is kids are sponges and fast learners. So teaching them emotional awareness will not usually be challenging. Here’s how you can do it:
Allow Them to Label Their Emotions
Emotional awareness starts with recognition. Children need to label to recognize their emotions first. The problem though is some children lack the necessary vocabulary to explain their feelings. As a parent, guardian, or teacher, teach children the names of different emotions to have a reference point the next time these emotions come up. It is helpful to use descriptive words such as sad, frustrated, or angry. You can also use our Emotions Flashcards to help individuals label and talk about feelings!
Recognize Both Negative and Positive Emotions
Adults and children all have a full range of emotions. We have negative and positive emotions that need validation. Recognize all the feelings that children show, regardless of whether they are positive or negative. This way, children can feel safe in sharing all of their emotions.
Teach Them All Emotions Are Valid, But Not All Behaviors Are
All emotions are valid, no matter how negative they may be. Children must know this and have a safe space to express any feeling. However, it would help to let them know that not all behaviors are appropriate. While emotions are natural and spontaneous, they can choose their behavior. So some behaviors are not appropriate. For example, they are allowed to feel upset for not winning in the spelling bee contest. But it is not fair to push the winner.
Teach Them to Seek Alternative Emotions
Children should express their emotions. However, they should be taught not to be controlled by them. Teach your child that when emotions become overwhelming, they can seek an alternative feeling that will be more appropriate. For example, you can teach the child to breathe through their feelings to calm down first before reacting. By teaching a child to do this, they can respond to whatever caused the feelings more effectively.
Children are capable of handling emotions, big or small. Teach them emotional awareness, and they will develop a high level of emotional intelligence that will help them go through life’s stressors.