Saturday, August 15, 2009

Feelings and Emotions

In order to help the social and emotional growth of your children under the age of 5, you can read books about feelings giving them words to say and assurance that their feelings are important.

For example, often times children will throw tantrums or their toys, and it's a parent's job to teach the child how to express their anger verbally. You can tell your child, "It looks like you're really angry, and you can say 'I'm angry!" Give your child appropriate ways of expressing anger and dealing with it. Sometimes our anger can scare us, and children need to know that it's OK to be angry or sad. Everyone has these feelings, and if you help a child label his feelings and talk about them, he will learn how to handle his strong feelings and the feelings of others.

When Sophie Gets Angry--Really, Really Angry by Molly Bang is a Caldecott Honor book and winner of the Charlotte Zolotow Book Award. A young girl gets angry when her mother makes her share a toy with her sister. The book describes her process of expressing anger through screaming, running, relaxing and cooling down, and finally returning home to her safe and loving family. Suggested age 3+.

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst. Many people know this story, and if you don't know the story, you've probably had a terrible, horrible day like Alexander. Or if you or your child are a Sesame Street fan read "Grover's Bad, Awful Day" by Anna H. Dickson. It's basically the same storyline using Sesame Street characters instead. Suggested age 3+.

I Was So Mad by Mercer Mayer is a very simplistic picture book to help teach the very young the name of their feelings. And sometimes our anger stays with us for longer than a single moment. Children need to know how to express themselves and to recognize their feelings. "I wanted to play with my little sister's dollhouse, but Dad wouldn't let me. I was so mad." Suggested age 3+.

Today I Feel Silly and Other Moods that Make My Day by Jamie Lee Curtis is one of my favorite books. It truly captures the essence of all moody people, young and old. I know because I am one of them! Suggested age 3+.

There are so many books out now that are about feelings. If none of these books seem relevant, do some research online. I know you'll be surprised at how many there are and the variety of topics available. I truly believe that children need to be taught how to appropriately deal with their feelings in order to become healthy adults.

In addition to reading books with your child about feelings, develop an activity box or a place in your house where your child can go if he is feeling angry or sad. At the daycare I worked at, we had an Angry Box. It had pieces of paper in it that the children could rip to help them release their anger. You could put playdoh in there. You could put markers and papers for your child to draw a picture. You could give them a pillow that they could punch.

If you give them options, they're less likely to break the things you don't want them to break or punch people instead of pillows. There are certain things I do that help me to release my and listening to 80's metal! You laugh, but it works! Why would it be different for children? Help them learn ways to cope that are appropriate. Teach, teach, teach.

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