Emotional development in children is sometimes seen as less important than physical or intelligence development. This is because it is harder to measure emotional development. But it is an essential part of a child’s character. Here are some ways to promote emotional development in children.
Talk about different emotions
To begin with, children need to know that different emotions exist. With young toddlers, start simple: happy or sad. You can use phrases like, “I see that you are crying and are sad that we have to leave the playground.” Or, “you’re smiling so much because you’re really happy to play with your toys.”
As your child’s understanding of words grow, make sure that their emotional vocabulary grows, too. Include statements like, “it can be really frustrating to not be able to put on your shoes by yourself.” You can also say, “it’s really exciting to find a puddle to jump into.” Make sure you use new emotion words in context to better promote understanding.
Use examples of other people
It’s important for children to see that other people experience a large range of emotions. That way they know that it’s ok for themselves to experience different emotions. Start with yourself. “I’m really disappointed that the library closes early on Sunday.” “I’m so rested because your baby sister slept through the night!” Children look to parents to know how the world works, so be sure to include emotional language when discussing the day.
It’s also important for children to see that other children experience different emotions. This can also help with empathy, which is when someone recognizes how someone else feels. If you’re at the park and a child starts crying, don’t just ignore it. You can point out the situation (discretely), “oh no, that poor boy is sad because he fell down. I bet it really hurts. Good thing his mom is there to give him a hug.” Use language that supports the emotion and shows that if there is a problem, it can be worked through.
Read new books
Books are a great way to promote emotional development as they provide different, contained scenarios. Sometimes parents will gloss over difficult parts in a story, not wanting to upset their child. But if a child is then presented with a similar situation in real life, they could be very unprepared to handle it. Instead, read the part in the story and then talk about it.
If a character is afraid of the dark, talk to your child about why they are afraid. Don’t be afraid to ask if your own child ever gets afraid. Instead of thinking that the story’s plot would promote fear, think of it as a chance to ensure your child isn’t afraid. They may have certain emotions but not the language to discuss them. This is why it’s essential for parents to bring up certain topics as children don’t always know how to bring them up themselves.