How to encourage healthy emotional development in your child

Children grow so fast don’t they? They go from articulating all their woes through screaming, to starting to put their feelings into words (but let’s be honest – probably still screaming as well).

So how do you encourage healthy emotional regulation and growth in your child?

Emotional development - Paint

First things first – look after yourself

You know how in a flight emergency, you’re supposed to put the oxygen mask on yourself first before you put it on your child -despite all your instincts screaming otherwise?

A similar principle applies for emotions.

Whether they fully understand it or not, children are affected by the emotions of others. As a parent, it is important that you look after your own emotional well-being so that you can be there fully for your child. This is because children need consistent experiences of having their emotional needs met by a caring, warm and responsive adult to help them develop a positive sense of self, emotional regulation and the capacity to get along well with others.

Emotional development - Relaxed woman

Be a positive role model

Children learn about emotions and how to express them appropriately through observing the actions and interactions of their parents. For example, if you lose your temper, – which, being a parent and a human, will happen! – apologise. Your child won’t love you any less because you’re imperfect! Then demonstrate to your child how you will manage your emotions, e.g. “Mummy got angry, but she is going to take a deep breath now. She is going to say she’s sorry.” (see Seleni for further advice)

Encourage healthy expression of emotions and help them arrive at constructive solutions

Don’t suppress their negative emotions or sweep them under the carpet.

Allow your child to talk about why they may be feeling bad and encourage them to find solutions on how to manage their emotions. Remind them that having difficult feelings is a normal part of life and show them how to deal with them, e.g. taking deep breaths, sitting away from others until they feel calm again.

Emotional development - Girl

Make talking about emotions a normal part of every day

You can do this by naming the emotions you feel and encouraging your child to do the same. This should be in the context of everyday experiences such as asking them how they felt after their block tower was knocked over by a sibling.

Emotional development - Comforting child

Help them develop empathy

There are many opportunities in day-to-day life to encourage an interest and concern about the feelings of others.

A good way to start is by talking about the emotions of others, such as in the following examples:

“Mummy felt anxious when she couldn’t find her car keys.”

“George Pig looked sad when he lost Mr Dinosaur. I wonder how he felt when Peppa and Daddy helped him find Mr Dinosaur.”

“That little boy is crying. Do you think it’s because he fell? Do you want to ask him if he’s OK?”

Emotional development - Boys

STUCK ON YOU FLASHCARDS

Our beautifully illustrated Emotion Flash Cards are designed to aid in children’s emotional regulation and growth. To express how they’re feeling, your child can simply point at the appropriate card (while also learning some impressive new words – sneaky!)

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