Supporting emotional development
As your preschooler grows and learns to interact socially, their sense of self develops.
They start feeling more complicated emotions like shyness, elation, embarrassment, shame, pride and empathy.
It’s important to help your child learn to understand and manage these types of emotions. This can help them to:
- listen to their feelings
- ask for help when they feel sad or angry
- recognise how others are feeling
- begin to control their behaviour.
Here are some practical ways you can help your child better understand their emotions.
Use open-ended questions
Open-ended questions help younger children think and talk about what they’re feeling.
For example, ask your child, “Tell me about all the things you like (or don’t like) about going to the park.”
This gives your child an opportunity to name their emotions. It means you can offer support for any difficult feelings, which helps them learn coping skills.
It also provides you with a unique insight into your child’s world and what they value.
Talk about feelings
Encourage your child to share their feelings.
Start by being a role model. Talk to children about your own feelings in different situations. This can include acknowledging mistakes (for example, saying “I’m sorry”).
Help children who are developing language put their feelings into words. For example, you could say, “You’re smiling – you must be happy.”
When you practise naming emotions, you teach your child to learn about their feelings.
Listen to your child’s feelings, especially when they talk about things that worry them. Offer reassurance and comfort.
Help your child put words to how others are feeling as well. It’ll help them develop empathy.
Acknowledge your child’s distress
If your preschooler becomes upset, show them you understand what they’re feeling.
For example, “I can see you’re sad,” or “It’s okay to cry.”
This helps them identify their own emotions and reactions to different situations.
It teaches them that experiencing emotions is okay. It also shows them that you are someone they can talk to about how they’re feeling.
Your cues and support for their emotions can help your child feel loved and safe.
Prepare for situations that make your child nervous
Talk to your child about how you can prepare for events they feel nervous or anxious about.
For example, if a child is worried about being dropped off at kindergarten, make plans with them about what to do.
Remind them of those strategies: “Remember those ideas for what you’ll do when you get to kindy? Shall we go through them again together?”
Your preschooler will learn that tough times are a part of life. They will feel supported to face those moments.
Learn about emotional development through play on the Raising Children Network website.