What you need to know about your kids’ feelings
You know the classic song, “My Favorite Things” from the Sound of Music? It’s all about understanding emotions … lollipops, warm hugs, and a favorite teddy bear often lead to feelings of joy, while a stubbed toe, mommy going out, and a lost blanket often lead to feelings of sadness. Each emotion we feel has a cause. Helping your child learn that different emotions are caused by different things is what understanding emotions is all about.
What’s going on
Understanding emotions is important for a child’s development. And knowing what leads to different feelings for our children helps us help them anticipate things that cause unpleasant feelings so we can support them through those moments. Additionally, if we know what leads to pleasant feelings, we can do those things more often.
Common emotions and their triggers:
How to help your child
Children love to hear stories, especially about when their parents were little. For all children, no matter what age they are – babies, toddlers or even big kids – sharing small stories from your life will help them learn about what causes different emotions. What made you happy when you were five? What made you sad? Each night before bed, tell your child a short story about a small event in your life – when you got your favorite stuffed animal and felt happy, or when you thought you lost that stuffed animal and felt sad.
As your child’s speech develops, ask her to tell stories from her day. What made her happy today? What made her sad? Did anything make her mad? Linking events to emotions helps children make sense of their world. And helping children get used to telling their stories when they are not in the throes of a strong feeling will get them ready to use their words when they are.
Susan E. Rivers, Ph.D.
Susan E. Rivers, Ph.D. is a social psychologist and expert on emotional intelligence and social and emotional learning. She was a member of the Yale University Department of Psychology’s research faculty, the founding deputy director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, as well as a co-developer of the RULER framework for teaching emotional intelligence in preschool through middle school classrooms. Dr. Rivers is currently the Executive Director at iThrive, a non-profit that helps teens develop social and emotional skills, and positive psychology habits through the use of digital games.
Shauna Tominey, Ph.D.
Shauna Tominey, Ph.D. is an experienced early childhood and parenting educator with a great deal of experience in research programs promoting social and emotional skills for both children and adults. She also co-authored the book Stop, Think, Act: Integrating Self-Regulation in the Early Childhood Classroom. Dr. Tominey is taking on a new role as an Assistant Professor of Practice and Parenting Education Specialist at Oregon State University.