Using Teachable Moments

As your child grows and develops, a spectrum of feelings emerge. Young children react emotionally, but it doesn’t last for long. For instance, your child may cry when he doesn’t get his way and a minute later, he may be laughing hysterically. Many teachable moments arise as children reach school age: they begin to recognize their own emotions, become aware of the emotions of others, and can think logically enough to begin to understand what to do about them. Here’s a step by step guide to using teachable moments when children have big emotions.

Using teachable moments - small boy with orange shirt

You can use each expression of intense emotion as a teachable moment. Try these easy steps for guiding children through their emotions:

  • Be aware of your child’s emotion. Don’t assume that you know what your child is feeling, but offer your interpretation without mixing in your own feelings. For instance, if your child is not getting along with a friend, use prompts such as, “What I heard you say was…” while discussing a situation.
  • Empathize with your child. Telling your child that his feelings are valid does not necessarily signify approval or agreement. Listen to your child’s feelings and acknowledge what you have heard. Empathize.
  • Help your child label his emotions. Once a child has shared with you, offer words that might more accurately describe what he is feeling or expressing. Offer a short story of a time you felt that same way.

Sharing feelings and emotional trials is not always an easy thing to do, but the reward is substantial.

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