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The importance of developing and expressing emotion

Expressing yourself and your emotions can be a very big ask in some circumstances. Right now in the current status of the world, there are a great deal of emotions circling about, for both adults and children. This is why it's more important now than ever that we look inward, and develop our sense of self-expression for the good of our relationships with the people who are closest to us.

When it comes to an adult's further-developed sense of self-expression and emotional maturity, it's easy to forget that young children actually deal with many of the same emotions that we do. Children get angry, sad, frustrated, nervous, happy, or embarrassed. But, they often do not have the words to express how they are feeling, like many adults do.

Young children have a hard time identifying how they are feeling and how to appropriately express these feelings. At times young children will lash out, either from frustration or simply because they are having a hard time calming down after having had an exciting day.

This can be very difficult for parents and Educators, but these situations are all a learning opportunity for young children in how to identify and express their emotions, and improve their emotional development.

Children get more frustrated when they are unable to make adults understand what they are feeling. The first step is to help children identify their own emotions and why they are feeling that way. At around the age of 18 months is when children can begin to recognise and verbalise their feelings.

Parents and educators can use the following strategies to help children identify and express their feelings:

Using Words and Pictures

Explain the feeling to the child by using easy words they can understand. Using picture books is a great way to illustrate the feeling. Illustrations help children learn how to recognise other people’s emotions and facial expressions, an important component to identifying emotions in others and in oneself. The team at Imagineland have developed stories that can allow children to explore how the characters are feeling.

Help Them Find a Solution

Teach children different ways to deal with feelings. Allow them to come up with solutions and explain to them if those solutions are reasonable or not.

Encourage with Positives

When you witness children expressing themselves in an appropriate manner, reinforce this with lots of praise. When a child is praised they are more likely to repeat that action. This will encourage them and show them that it is okay to talk about feelings.

Continued Practice

Support children when they talk and practice strategies for expressing emotions. Talk about the feelings they have while reading a story, listening to a song, or simply doing day-to-day activities. The more children practice, the quicker they will learn.

Name the Feeling

Help children name their feelings by giving them labels. By naming feelings, you allow children to develop an emotional vocabulary so they can talk about their feelings. As part of the resources available on the Imagineland site, you can download emotion and feeling cards to help name thoughts and feelings with ease.

Identify Feelings in Themselves and Others

Talk about feelings children have and those that you see in others. Describe emotions they see around them with words so they are able to identify them as well when experience them.

Talk About How Feelings Can Be Expressed

Lead by example and show children how to express their feelings and emotions. What do you do when you get a little frustrated? How do people know you are happy? Talk about ways that children can express their emotions. This could be done through dance, role play, action songs or creating art, for example.

Listen to Children’s Feelings

Empathetic listening is all about helping someone to see that you understand them and you have heard them. Stay present and listen, and resist the urge to make children’s feelings go away. Often, children just need a chance to be heard while they express their feelings. Once they feel and express them, let them go and move on. In fact, you will be amazed at how responsive children will be when they are able to express themselves openly.

Be Balanced

Encourage children to not only express their own feelings but to also regard the feelings and needs of others. The morals in each story within Imagineland help children recognise and empathise with the characters. These can then be utilised within real life scenarios when dealing with expressing emotions.

Children should know that it is perfectly ok to express what they feel, and be given ample opportunities to respond to their feelings in appropriate ways.

By providing opportunities and resources for children to learn through, they can only but grow and develop in a positive way. Be sure to check out the Imagineland resources to assist you in this area of children’s development.

By Nicole Hicks, Early Years Specialist



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