Feelings are directly related to behavior. Preschoolers need to understand feelings in order to control their behavior when they experience strong emotions. Teaching kids the link between behavior and feelings will help them learn to exercise self-control when things are not going their way. It can take years to learn how to control feelings and it is best to start teaching kids about feelings early.
Preschoolers need to be taught how to identify their feelings. It is important to teach kids that their bodies will feel different when experiencing different feelings. For example, when happy, their breathing will be calm and their muscles will be relaxed. However, when they are angry, their breathing will be faster and their muscles will be tight. Recognizing basic facial expressions associated with different emotions is important too, because it helps kids recognize the feelings others are experiencing.
Once preschoolers can recognize basic feelings, such as anger, sadness and joy, they need some support in learning how to deal with these feelings. Preschoolers will need a lot of intervention from adults to learn the appropriate ways to express emotions. Dealing with anger is a particularly important skill. Teach preschoolers to recognize when they are feeling angry and then encourage them to count to 10 before taking action. Teach them that they have choices for dealing with anger, which include walking away, taking time to relax or explaining why they are angry using nice words and a calm voice.
Fun Ways to Learn About Feelings
Role-playing is an excellent way to give preschoolers real experience dealing with their own feelings and the feelings of others. As you act out different scenarios, discuss how the participants are feeling and how that affects their behavior. Puppets are another fun way to practice handling situations that involve a variety of feelings. Having children identify different feelings using drawings of faces also helps them understand feelings. Put the faces on large dice or a spinner to make a game out of it.
Reassuring Your Child
Intense feelings can be scary for preschoolers who have trouble articulating what is bothering them. The more experience they have dealing with feelings, the less frightening strong emotions will be for them. Be sure to tell your child that it is okay for her to feel what she is feeling. Kids who can talk about their feelings are less likely to express emotion using problem behavior, and this will make everyone happier!