Helping children understand, regulate, and process their feelings and reactions is an important aspect of their social and emotional development.  In theory, when children grow up, they learn to recognise their own feelings and express themselves better. This process of emotional intelligence gradually leads to increased self-awareness, emotional regulation, and empathy. However, in reality, we know how children’s emotions can be similar to navigating a minefield.

Identifying primary emotions like happiness or anger initiates the process of emotional development in infants. Children also learn to recognise more complex emotions as they get older along with their understanding of their causes and triggers, and how to handle them with resilience. During their emotional development, they will need to understand advanced emotional concepts such as identifying mixed emotions and realising that feelings alter over time. 

However, young children may need more practical handles in the meantime to manage their emotions. By using coping strategies or relaxation techniques, children can be equipped to navigate the complexities of their emotional lives in a healthy and balanced manner. Let’s have a look at some techniques that might help young children learn the art of regulating their emotions.

1. Feelings Wheel

Teach your children a vocabulary for feelings. The act of naming a feeling that’s overwhelming us reduces its intensity and gives us a handhold to come to grips with it. Make an emotions chart or wheel with words describing different feelings, so that your child can point to the feeling they’re experiencing when they can’t express it in words. Use a variety of words to describe your feelings and theirs, so that they learn to distinguish between various feelings like happy, sad, angry, scared, and excited.

2. Deep breathing

Learning how to take slow, deep breaths can help pacify children when they are feeling overwhelmed and distressed. The simple technique of slowly inhaling through the nose, holding the breath, then quietly exhaling can help them find a sense of balance and calm.

3. Physical activities

Physical exercise provides a healthy outlet to release pent-up energy. Running, jumping, or simply dancing in the living room helps young children express their emotions, let off steam, and improve their mood. It also tires them out, so they can get a good night’s rest!

4. Sensory activities

Some children respond better to sensory adjustments, such as being in a quiet place, listening to soothing music or nature sounds, and touching textured materials. Changing the environment to make it conducive for relaxation is a great technique for anxious children who are overwhelmed by too much external stimuli. Consider setting up a “calm down corner” in your home where your child can hold their favourite stuffed toy, colour in a colouring book, or feel soft blankets when they are feeling overwhelmed.

5. Story Time and Role Play

Read books or tell stories where characters face various challenges and manage their emotions. Role-play can also help them understand and manage their emotions better. Such activities will engage their imagination to put themselves into other people’s shoes and understand what feelings look like without being overwhelmed by them.

Love is All Around

The effectiveness of coping strategies may vary for each child, so it’s important to observe and adapt to their individual needs. By practising these strategies consistently, and providing gentle guidance and support, children will feel more confident in identifying and managing their emotions effectively.

As children develop their emotional intelligence by understanding the importance of managing and expressing their feelings appropriately, they are able to manage stressful situations better while navigating social interactions. At New Life Childcare near Choa Chu Kang (In Junction 10), we help foster an approach that teaches children how to recognise their feelings as well as those of others. By equipping young children with effective coping skills and promoting their emotional development, they can confidently face life’s obstacles in future.