If your preschooler responds to his inability to put together the train tracks by throwing the pieces across the room before he crumbles to the floor weeping, he is not alone. As preschoolers grow and develop, they often have difficulty expressing their thoughts and dealing with their emotions in socially acceptable ways–much to the embarrassment of their parents. Teach your preschooler to express himself verbally using words and activities to help encourage him, and hopefully you can avoid the sobs and flying train set the next time around.
Give Him Words
Since your preschooler is still developing his vocabulary, he may not always know what words to use to articulate his thoughts and feelings. Give names to his expressions and emotions. If he seems upset that he can’t master riding a bike after watching his best friend ride off into the sunset, acknowledge his feelings and point out that he must be frustrated and upset. When he seems particularly thrilled after you tell him you’re taking him to the zoo, point out how happy and excited he must be.
Use examples from your preschooler’s storybooks to help describe thoughts and emotions. Point to a picture and ask your little one what Cinderella must be thinking about when her stepsisters leave for the ball. Is she smiling? Is there a tear running down her cheek? Use these clues to help your preschooler describe Cinderella’s thoughts and feelings. Ask if she can think of a situation that caused her to feel the same way as Cinderella–perhaps when her big sister got to have a sleepover at a friend’s house and she was left behind at home.
Sometimes preschoolers are nervous or self-conscious about expressing their feelings–even to their parents. If this is the case with your little one, try some pretend play to give him a safe outlet. If he had a bad dream but is afraid to talk about it, perhaps his alter-ego-superhero-dressed-in-cape self isn’t afraid to act out exactly what happened.
Support and Encouragement
Make sure you give your preschooler plenty of opportunity to express herself, and lavish her with praise when she does. Ask her how she feels during different situations–when a friend doesn’t share with her or someone cuts in front of her in line for the playground slide–and acknowledge and validate her feelings. Take time at the end of each day to listen to her thoughts and feelings about events from the day, and heap on the encouragement after she takes the time to share these things with you.