Jennifer Hsieh Yang
5 Tips to boost your preschool-aged child’s social development: Tip #3
At all ages, but particularly in early childhood emotional development and social development go hand in hand. Up to now we have only talked about how to develop your preschool aged child’s social development (link to previous 2 posts). In this blog post I’ll share ideas about how to develop your kid’s emotional awareness and why emotional awareness is key for social skills at this age. Our Tip #3 is working with your child on identifying their own feelings.
Emotions, either uncomfortable or comfortable ones, we all have them, and these emotions affect our thought process. Our thought process then affects our actions and how we interact with others. With preschool aged children these can often be big emotions, so big that sometimes they struggle about what to do with these big feelings and how express them appropriately.
If we think about the skill of emotion regulation (the ability to feel emotions and react them in an adaptive way), the first step is recognizing emotions.
Being able to put a name to feelings can be very beneficial for little ones. They are learning to be aware of different feelings. They can communicate with adults and peers effectively about what they are experiencing. And by having a name for what they are feeling, children can start to recognize what leads to or “triggers” that feeling.
The goal eventually is to be able to identify and recognize other’s feelings too, but first children need to be able to identify their own feelings and know them like they know the palm of their hand. So how do you develop emotional awareness in little ones? There are lots of ways.
I’m a big fan of bibliotherapy, which is using books and literature along with traditional therapy techniques to foster mental health. Even if you are not a therapist, you can always read books about feelings. Ask your kids to show you what does your face look like when you feel ____ feeling? What does your body look like when you feel ____ feeling?
Sometimes bringing out a mirror and having your child look into it can be eye opening. They might not realize what they look like when they are proud, angry, or jealous. Some of my favorite books for this age group are The Way I Feel by Janan Cain as well as Sad Monster, Glad Monster by Ed Emberley and Anne Miranda.
Another strategy is using feeling charts. You can get one with your child’s interests. They have all kinds these days, unicorn feelings, dinosaur feelings, emoji feelings, ninja feelings… Talk about what each of these feelings mean. Then make it a daily routine to have each family member go around the table and identify how they are feeling at the moment.
If you find your child still struggling in despite of these tips, feel free to reach out to us. We are running a new social skills group for kids ages 3 to 5 working on developing social skills as well as emotional regulation.