Supporting Your Toddler’s Emotions

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As a parent, it can be difficult to watch your toddler experience strong emotions like anger, sadness, or frustration. You want to do everything you can to support your little one, but it can be challenging to know where to start. The good news is that there are several effective strategies you can use to help your toddler navigate their emotions and develop healthy emotional intelligence.

Recognize and validate their emotions

Toddlers may not have the language skills to express themselves clearly, but they still experience a wide range of emotions. It’s important to recognize and validate their feelings. For example, if your toddler is upset because their favorite toy is broken, you can say, “I can see you’re really sad that your toy is broken. That must be hard for you.” This helps them feel understood and supported.

Teach them emotion words

As your toddler learns more words, you can start introducing emotion words. This can help them develop a better understanding of their own emotions and the emotions of others. For example, you can say, “You look really happy right now! That means you’re feeling excited and joyful.” This can also help them better communicate their emotions to others.

Help them regulate their emotions

Toddlers are still learning how to regulate their emotions, and they may need some help. One strategy is to help them take deep breaths when they are feeling overwhelmed. You can also encourage them to use their words to express their feelings, rather than resorting to hitting or tantrums.

Model healthy emotional expression

As parents, we are our children’s first role models. It’s important to model healthy emotional expression by expressing your own emotions in a constructive way. For example, you can say, “I’m feeling frustrated right now because I can’t find my keys. I think I need to take a deep breath and try again.”

Provide a safe and supportive environment

Finally, it’s important to provide a safe and supportive environment for your toddler. This means creating a predictable routine, setting clear boundaries and expectations, and providing plenty of opportunities for play and exploration. When your toddler feels safe and secure, they are better able to manage their emotions.

Supporting your toddler’s emotional development is an important part of your role as a parent. By providing a safe and supportive environment for your child to express their feelings, teaching them emotional regulation skills, and modeling healthy emotional behaviors yourself, you can help set your child up for a lifetime of emotional well-being. Remember, it’s never too early to start supporting your toddler’s emotional growth and development.

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Havighurst, S. S., Wilson, K. R., Harley, A. E., Prior, M. R., & Kehoe, C. (2010). Tuning in to toddlers: Research protocol for a randomized controlled trial of a parenting program addressing emotion socialization of preschoolers. BMC public health, 10(1), 1-10.

McGoron, L., Gleason, M. M., Smyke, A. T., Drury, S. S., Nelson, C. A., Gregas, M. C., … & Zeanah, C. H. (2012). Recovering from early deprivation: Attachment mediates effects of caregiving on psychopathology. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 51(7), 683-693.

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