Preschool-aged children are beginning to learn how to talk about their emotions, but social-emotional development goes much deeper then that. Teaching your child how to successfully manage their emotions will give them the tools that they need to make meaningful relationships and interact in groups. There are many ways that you can help foster emotional development in your preschooler.
MODEL HOW TO HANDLE BIG EMOTIONS
Young children learn better when shown rather then being told. Don’t be afraid to let your child see when you are having big emotions. It is important for children to see that adults have big emotions too, and that they can handle them. If you are feeling sad, go ahead and let your preschooler know how you are feeling and why. Ask for a hug. Let your child see you stop and take three big deep breaths when you are getting frustrated.
Seeing different types of coping strategies help you manage your big emotions will give your child the confidence to try it out for themselves. Actually seeing it in action will also help them remember those tools better when they are dealing with some big emotions themselves.
TALK ABOUT YOUR EMOTIONS
Do not feel as though you need to hide any emotions from your child. A lot of parents think that they should not show how angry or frustrated they get in difficult situations. Seeing how you handle difficult situations is exactly how your preschooler will learn to do it themselves though. When you are feeling frustrated, verbalize it. Point out what is frustrating you, and why you find it so frustrating. Then, say what you are going to do to help yourself calm down.
When you are calm you can talk to your child about what you might do differently next time. Maybe you will use your coping strategies sooner, or maybe there is something that you could have done to avoid the situation altogether.
USE SOCIAL STORIES
Social stories are a social learning tool that supports a young child’s social and emotional development. You can find, or create your own, social stories that help children understand situations that are new to them. Some preschoolers are nervous about going to the dentist. Whether it is their first visit or their third, a simple social story is a great way to show your child what to expect.
Social stories can also be used to demonstrate appropriate responses to difficult situations. If your child is going to preschool for the first time and has been having trouble sharing with their friends, a social story that demonstrates how to play cooperatively with friends would be a great resource.
Puppets are a fun tool for fostering emotional development in preschoolers. You can use them to introduce emotional vocabulary, which is a key component of fostering emotional development. Having a strong emotional vocabulary helps with identifying and managing your emotions.
Also, using puppets to tell social stories really makes those stories come alive for children, which gives them a deeper connection to the story. That connection helps them recall the story more easily, making it easier to use the tools demonstrated in the story themselves.
PROVIDE SENSORY EXPERIENCES
Sensory play can be a great tool for helping to calm your child. That is why you may notice that your child is more calm after bath time. Provide your child with a rich sensory environment to discover which types of sensory input helps them regulate their emotions best.
Fostering emotional development in your preschooler is important to their overall development. They need to be able to successfully regulate their emotions in order to have lasting meaningful relationships and to work within groups.