Have you ever said to your little one ‘shhhhh, it’s okay, it’s okay’, putting on the big, brave smile? Either to your baby when you are not sure why they are crying, to your toddler when they fell over and started to cry or to your preschooler, crying when something didn’t go the way they expected.
By saying ‘shhhh’, we are telling our little ones that crying is not on and by saying ‘it’s okay’, we are telling them we don’t acknowledge any other feelings.
But in fact, for a child to have good emotional intelligence (that’s another post), the first step is to help our children identify what emotion they are feeling and to encourage them to deal with it, which before they mature is to probably have a cry about it!
It sounds easy but it does take some practice to stop yourself from shushing and saying ‘it’s okay’. Instead, try being there for your little one (especially the babies) by just holding them. You might say ‘mummy is here’ or ‘you hurt yourself’ or you might start thinking about labelling which emotion they are feeling (for example, you are sad, you are disappointed). Sometimes, it does take some thinking as to ‘which emotion are they feeling right now!?’. You will get better at it each time. Try to reflect their emotion on your face (for example, frustrated or sad), before showing a reassuring smile.
For babies, it might be ‘sad’, ‘hungry’, ‘tired’. For toddlers, ‘disappointed’ will be a new one as might be ‘unsure’. For pre-schoolers, it might be ‘frustrated’ or ‘angry’. Don’t be scared of labelling them!
You can also label the good feelings at other times. ‘You are so excited!’, ‘wow you are happy’.
The next step is to help them work through this emotion but that is another post!