Guiding young children on the path to positive emotional expression starts with building an appropriate emotional vocabulary for preschoolers.
Young children frequently feel overwhelmed and frightened when they’re in the grip of powerful emotions, resulting in behaviors that can leave their parents and early childhood education professionals unclear on the appropriate course of action. Because young children are not familiar with identifying their feelings and expressing them in a suitable manner, they sometimes act out in ways such as biting, hitting, or throwing temper tantrums. Fortunately, there are effective methods that early childhood educators can utilize to help with building an emotional vocabulary for preschoolers. These are proven strategies for aiding children in learning to process and express their emotions in a healthy way.
Teach to Name the Feelings
Children have a natural tendency to want to identify and name everything, so work with that instinct when a child begins to exhibit destructive behavior in response to emotional stimuli. Educators can use games, posters, videos, and puppets to teach children the names of a range of emotions. This sets the groundwork for children to learn to use words to express their feelings rather than destructive behaviors such as hitting or stomping their feet. Reading material with a focus on dealing with emotions is also an excellent classroom tool. Games and books allow the children to discuss feelings and possible reactions to a variety of situations from a safe distance, which assists in building an appropriate emotional vocabulary for preschoolers and making it possible for them to channel positive behaviors as emotional situations arise.
Teach Positive Expression Techniques
Educators should keep in mind that some children are more verbally adept than others, and it may be easier for these children to learn to develop the necessary skills for positive self-expression. Some children will not yet have the vocabulary to adequately discuss their feelings verbally. A developmentally appropriate practice in early childhood programs is to encourage drawing, painting, coloring, or sculpting to show their emotions.
Another excellent way to help young children develop positive emotional regulatory skills is to incorporate role playing activities into your classroom. This can include skits depicting a variety of emotional situations and stimuli that explore appropriate potential reactions with added discussion about why certain courses of action are good or bad. Encouraging children to talk about their feelings while an adult writes what is said is another way of building an emotional vocabulary for preschoolers.
Keep in mind that anger and frustration are the two emotions most likely to be the catalyst for disruptive behavior in children. Anger in particular can be a frightening experience for children. Frustration often leads to feelings of anger because the child feels helpless because they can’t solve a problem. Cultivating good problem-solving skills is another developmentally appropriate practice in early childhood programs. Feelings of anger subside significantly once children learn effective ways of solving problems that lead to frustration.
Provide a Positive Role Model
Young children also naturally look to teachers, parents and other adults for guidance, so providing a good role model for students helps them cultivate positive patterns. Child educators should be aware that negative emotional reactions are frequently the result of poor role models, so it is increasingly important that the adults in a child’s life provide solid guidance. As with other aspects of early childhood education, consistency is key.
If you are an early childhood educator interested in learning more about helping young children express their feelings through developmentally appropriate practice in early childhood programs, contact Naptime Academy at 844-435-7682. Register for courses as a group or as an individual.