Why You Should Teach Your Child About Emotions
As a parent, you’re charged with teaching your children about the world.
Yes, school will educate them on the tools they will need to be productive in society. But they rarely delve into the soft skills that are needed to be successful.
Especially early on in their development, they have a lot of questions about why things are they way the are. Basics of how the world works that we usually don’t give a second thought to as adults.
Take, for instance, emotions. We all experience a range of emotions every day. But for a child, emotions are a relatively new thing and they may not understand how and why people react the way they do.
In fact, a new study points to evidence that the more a child understands about emotion, the less behavioral problems they’ll exhibit later on.
Something, I’m sure, all parents would prefer.
Bridging the Gap
The research – led by Holly Brophy-Herb – focused on an activity called “emotion bridging” between mothers and their children.
One of the exciting things about the research is explained by Holly:
“Our findings offer promise for a practical, cost-effective parenting strategy to support at-risk toddlers’ social and emotional development and reduce behavioral problems.”
Emotion bridging involves a couple of things. The first is the labeling emotions. This is simple as telling them what it is they are feeling. Such as sad, happy, angry.
The second part is putting those emotions into context. “That person was sad because they lost their pet.” It then helps to link the situation back to the child. “Remember when our dog, Annie, passed away?”
Not So Terrible Toddlers
The research itself consisted of 89 toddlers from 18 to 24 months from low income families. Mothers were instructed to look through a wordless picture book with their children. The book itself contained many emotional situations like a girl losing a pet.
7 months later the researchers returned to the family. And what they found was that there were less behavioral problems in children who are usually at higher risk for having them.
The scientists believe that emotion bridging gives the child the understanding and tools to learn and express themselves instead of acting out physically.
So what’s the best way to teach them about emotions?
Holly believes that teaching emotion should be an ongoing long term strategy. You can talk to them just about any time.
My own opinion, taking them to the new movie Inside Out would be a perfect reason to start the conversation. But remember it should be more than a one time thing.
Holly believes this will have a long term impact:
“Over time, these mini-conversations translate into a rich body of experiences for the child.”
Their study can be found in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics.
Crossing the Bridge
The research emphasizes how important teaching emotion could be great for families who are dealing with a lot of stressful situations. Especially for families with lower incomes.
Typically, children from lower economic families are exposed to less words and a more limited vocabulary. In the study the mothers were engaged in high language interactions.
Other studies have linked vocabulary with later academic success. Together with this study it emphasizes how important things like reading to your child can be. And how much they can learn from it.