Social and Emotional Development
Mad and sad, don’t be afraid! Family members are important teachers for a child when it comes to learning emotions, as they are the people the child feels most comfortable with. Talk about what makes you happy! “I feel so happy when you give me a hug.” Talk about sad and mad feelings too. Many parents feel that it is better for their child never see them sad or mad, but remember; you want to be the one to teach your child about these emotions. Anger and sadness are normal feelings everyone has and there are healthy and adaptive things that can be done when you feel this way. The most important part is how you model these emotions to your children. “I am feeling sad right now because I miss seeing our friends. Let’s go for a walk, that helps me feel better.” When you feel sad or mad in front of your child:
- Label your emotion
- Talk about why you feel that way
- What you are going to do help your body feel better
This emotional formula will model to your child that happy, sad, and mad feelings are a normal part of life. The most important part is that we can do things to feel better and move on.
Professional tip: Adults experience these emotions due to issues that may not be developmentally appropriate for children (i.e., finances, relationship issues). Use this emotional formula to describe an emotional situation that is appropriate for your child to hear.
You are the expert! Parenting can overwhelming and when your child is displaying big emotions and it is easy to forget that you are the expert of your child. You know what to do to help your child feel better. As they enter the preschool years, the tricky part is now teaching them what they can do. “I have been helping you feel better your entire life! When you are sad or mad you can…”
- Go outside
- Have a drink
- Have a snack
- Ask for help
- Ask for a hug
- Have a bath
- Cuddle with your blanket
- Play with water
- Dance to your favorite song
- Call a family member on the phone
- Colour, cut, and create.
- Sing a song
- Play with your favorite toy
Professional tip: When your child is sad or mad, give them two options of what they can do and then let them choose. This way you are teaching them positive adaptive strategies to support their regulation. Help them with their activity choice, tell them that you see they are feeling happier, and that you are proud of them for their choice.
Play! Now is an important time to remember the most foundational concept of cognitive development. Play. Make it a goal in your family to support your child to free play, by themselves, with whatever appropriate materials choose, and then let them be. Think of it as the pinnacle of brilliance! If your child can take the Tupperware drawer apart and amuse themselves happily for 15 minutes, perfect! As a child psychologist, I cannot stress this enough. No I-pad game or learning booklet can teach the skills free play can. Skills such as sustained attention, open-ended imagination, and motor sequencing. All with Tupperware! Congratulations parents, you are doing great and your child’s brain is growing.
Professional tip: Allowing your child to free play on their own does not mean that they are left alone. Being busy with house-hold activities while your child is playing means that you can hear them and check in on them when you need to and gives your child the confidence to explore play while you are in close proximity.