They may be little, but boy do these kiddos have some BIG emotions. As a parent, it is helpful to remember that emotions are simply energy! We live in a society where being strong and “positive” is associated with wiping away any “negative emotions” that we feel. However, although being positive is important in improving so many aspects of our lives because after all, the power of our thoughts and mindset ultimately shape our reality, using positivity as a tool to mask the surface of our true emotions and feelings is not healthy.
Parents often falsely assume that a child’s self-awareness around feelings comes naturally as they develop. However, the truth is, just like many other skills, they need to be taught how to regulate their emotions. We can either encourage them to shut down their feelings or we can teach them to embrace and use them in the right way. We are ultimately seeking to help them grow from their negative emotions, not mask them as though they do not exist. This is only a recipe for disaster.
Why is teaching kids about feelings so important?
1. Validating children’s feelings decreases their anxiety
A key component of the human experience is to feel emotions. However, these emotions can sometimes be intense and overwhelming, especially for a child! Creating a safe space for children to feel their big emotions, as well as normalising them, is vital to developing a healthy acceptance of their feelings. When children are taught to accept their feelings, as opposed to fighting them, unnecessary stress and anxiety can be reduced.
2. Understanding emotions enhances emotional intelligence
It is easy to assume that children will channel their emotions and let them out in a healthy way. However, if children are not taught how to reflect on or even identify what it is that they are feeling, they will not know how to cope with whatever emotions come up for them. Therefore, children need to be familiarised with appropriate vocabulary so they can communicate their feelings. Identifying emotions is an essential building block of emotional intelligence.
3. Learning how deal with emotions helps children reduce any unhealthy behaviours
When a child understands how to identify their feelings, they can learn coping mechanisms to calm themselves down or feel less anxious in overwhelming situations. This process can of course take some time due to trial and error of what works for them. However, over time they will get better and quicker at settling themselves down so that they are less likely to engage in unhealthy coping behaviours, which can lead to anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues.
4. Children can be the best version of themselves when they are able to emotionally regulate themselves
Dealing with emotions in a healthy way, as opposed to supressing them, can free up space for children to function to their maximum developmental capacity. When emotions are left unresolved, it can consume a child’s mental and physical energy, which can affect how they show up to the world daily.
5. Emotional health is vital to physical health
Unresolved emotions over time start to show up in different ways and affect children physically. For example, there is evidence to show that suppressed emotions over time, such as anger, can be a precursor for cancer. By helping children to reflect, communicate and cope with their emotions early on, the emotions are not given a chance to manifest physically through bodily symptoms.
6. Cultivating good emotional health paves a path for long-term health and well-being.
Let’s be honest, many of us are still trying to figure out how to take care of ourselves emotionally, let alone our children. Due to having a weak framework of emotional intelligence as a child, it can be difficult to guide our children in the right way. However, starting early with your child is a key contributor in helping them sustain their long-term emotional well-being and mental health.
Armed with emotional support and guidance from an early age, children will be ready to tackle their big, wonderful life ahead! This is the best gift you can give to them!
Lots of love,