Blog / How adults can respond to children’s ‘big emotions’

October 22 2021,

How adults can respond to children’s ‘big emotions’

Children of all ages are made up of many emotions and feelings and express them in a wide variety of ways. This can be illustrated through facial expressions, behaviour and their play. It can even include physical or sometimes problematic behaviour. 

As an adult, it is important to remember that children have not yet developed the language to clearly articulate their needs and feelings and thus require assistance to convey how they feel. More often than not, children tend to cry to indicate their needs of comfort during these moments. How adults respond to this can be critical in the development of children’s emotional regulation and understanding. 

Emotions images on the wall of one of our pre-school rooms at Turtletot

Whilst most adults will immediately tell a child to stop crying or shush them in an attempt to quieten them down quicker, this can actually be a detriment to the skills necessary in developing emotional regulation.

An adult's conscious decision in thinking about how to respond is key in building a child’s overall wellbeing. Some suggestions include, but are not limited to:

  1. Telling the child that it is okay to be sad and to express that appropriately
  2. Asking them if they’d like you to help them solve the problem together
  3. Acknowledging their feelings and how hard it can be to navigate through them
  4. Acknowledging that you can see they are sad and understanding why they feel this way. 

By being conscious of our response and approach to a child’s emotions, it helps them to feel understood and valued as a human being. Ultimately, this makes a child feel supported by those they trust and develop a sense of belonging.

Adults will then begin to notice that the calmer and more understanding the approach, and the more active they are towards explaining this to children, the more responsive the child will be in using their language skills to express their feelings verbally and conscientiously. 

This also aligns with the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) learning outcome 3: "Children become strong in their social and emotional wellbeing"

From the wise words of award winning author L.R Knost - “When little people are overwhelmed with big emotions, it’s our job to share our calm, not join their chaos”. 

Much love and calm from the team at Turtletot

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