Trust me, I get it! I have a toddler and one minute she’s happy and the next she’s throwing herself down in protest because she didn’t get to help me turn on the light, or cut her apple, or it might even be that I didn’t give her the right color cup! Honestly, while we can’t anticipate what will make our toddler lose it we can help them navigate their big emotions. Here are five ways I like to encourage my toddler to express her emotions in a healthy way!
1. Read about Emotions
I love reading to all my children, but it’s especially nice to get my active toddler to sit still and read a book. One of my most favorite books to read about emotions are the Llama Llama book series. I love these books because the rhyming makes them fun, yet the topics are very relevant too. For example, Llama Llama Mad at Mama is a very relatable book about little Llama being bored in the store and throwing a tantrum, which we can all relate to! Similarly, Llama Llama misses Mama covers little Llama’s emotion of being away from his Mama. Reading these books and then talking with your little one about their own emotions is a great way to help them learn to cope early.
2. Giving them Validation of their Emotions
One thing I love about being a parent is that we are all learning and growing and thankfully our kids are usually very gracious as we navigate our role! Let’s give our kids the same grace and validate their feelings when we can. For example, if your toddler is sad about having to leave the park here are some steps you can take to validate their emotions. First, offer them a chance to pick one final activity. Share with them that you are also sad this fun time at the park is over, but that it is time to transition. Finally, if they are still not keen on this change and if they show BIG EMOTIONS as you are leaving then pick them up and reassure them that you know it’s hard to leave, but you will help them. There may be tears, but with consistency and reassurance hopefully this will get easier.
3. Offer a Soft Landing Spot
When things are hard be a soft landing spot for their BIG EMOTIONS! Whether it’s been a rough day overall or if they just didn’t get the flavor/color lollypop they wanted it’s important to be a consistent, supportive landing spot for them. In a tantrum remember it’s okay to hold them tight and tell them you will help to keep their body safe while they are upset. When they are overly excited or downright wild, it’s okay to remind them that you will help them calm down to also keep their body safe. I’ve also heard about having an emotions or calming corner where they have resources to use it to get back to “Green” or a neutral feeling.
4. Sing Songs about Emotions
“When you feel so mad that you want to ROAR, take a deep breath and count to 4!” This wisdom comes from Daniel Tiger and if you have a toddler you may want to memorize and sing this song to your little one multiple times a day! Similarly when your toddler is happy it’s nice to celebrate that BIG EMOTION too and sing “If You’re Happy and You Know It”. Singing is a great way to familiarize your toddler with emotions and help them identify what they are feeling.
5. Talk about Emotions
Parents, don’t hide your emotions from your children! It’s important for us to talk about our emotions and show our children how to handle them. Recently we lost our beloved family pet and my husband and I choose to openly discuss our sadness with our children rather than hiding it. My toddler saw us cry and heard us talk about how we loved and would miss our precious dog. We talked with her about why Mommy and Daddy were sad and she was extra cuddly offering comfort during that time.
As parents our children will teach us more about emotions than we have ever learned before! It’s important we also try to share with them techniques we have learned on how to cope. If you can build a strong foundation with your toddler it will pay off as they grow. My oldest daughter has an elective once a week in school called “Social Emotional Learning” and I love the emphasis still being placed on emotions! I truly believe emotional intelligence is an important life skill!