What is the best way to teach your children how to express their emotions? Well, if you are a new parent, you can start implementing sign language with your baby from day one! Children can sign before they can speak. If starting from infancy, your child can easily have up to 30 signs in their vocabulary between the ages of 12 – 18 months. Baby signing is easy. There are many YouTube videos, flash cards, and parental guides on how to get started. When children can express themselves, they are less likely to throw tantrums. Instead of sitting in their highchair crying because they are out their favorite snacks – they will simply sign “more!”
If your child is above 3 years old and speaking beyond words that only their beloved caregivers understand – than using flash cards, sticker charts, and emotional guides are the way to go! You’ll want to give real life example when teaching them. “I am sad today because I lost my teddy bear and Mom can’t find it” or, “It makes me angry when my little brother takes apart my wooden tower!” Children will understand what they find relatable. You’ll need to use short phrases with basic words. When you see a child is having a strong emotion, make sure you squat/sit down at their eye level and question what they are feeling. If you saw what happened, you could say things like “I saw Johnny eat your last cookie – how are you feeling?” This is a great opportunity to validate they have a reason to be upset. If they are not able to express their emotions, you are able to guide them through that process. “If someone ate my cookie, I’d be angry.” Keep in mind, you need to think like a 3-year-old. They are not able to just go buy a new cookie or grab a snack without permission, this could be a strong emotion for a child that an adult would simply problem solve.
Keep it simple. Feelings are big. When we are learning how to express ourselves, we get even more confused. There are plenty of adults in the world who still cannot articulate emotions in a healthy manner. We cannot put adult level work on children. So start young! You’ll be amazed at how easy it is to have a conversation with a child when they know they can safely express their emotions.