Help your tod­dler un­der­stand his emo­tions

Mother & Baby - - CONTENTS -

Tod­dlers: small in size, large in self­ex­pres­sion. If you’ve ever tried to per­suade yours into his buggy when he wants to walk, you’ll know that when it comes to say­ing how they feel, tod­dlers don’t hold back. “And th­ese big feel­ings are to­tally nor­mal,” says child psy­chol­o­gist Dr Mar­got Sun­der­land. “The parts of the brain that helps us to think and un­der­stand how we feel aren’t de­vel­oped in chil­dren. So, while we adults can moder­ate our feel­ings by think­ing them through, your tod­dler can’t. He just re­acts!” Meltdowns? Nor­mal. Bounc­ing up and down like a de­lighted ping-pong ball when he gets a present? Nor­mal. Erupt­ing into a weep­ing tor­nado when he can’t have an ice cream? Nor­mal. And while your tod­dler will even­tu­ally learn how to deal with his emo­tions in a healthy way, there’s a lot you can do to help him on this jour­ney. “We all need emo­tions,” says Mar­got. “They’re a vi­tal tool for help­ing us nav­i­gate our way through life. And right now, when your child is a tod­dler, is the per­fect time to start help­ing him to un­der­stand and ac­cept his feel­ings.” Try­ing to stop th­ese emo­tions isn’t go­ing to help him. “In­stead, sup­port him as he starts to un­der­stand why he feels that way, and learns how to han­dle those feel­ings,” sug­gests Mar­got. Help­ing your youngster man­age big emo­tions will bring a lit­tle more calm­ness into all your lives. And there are longterm benefits, too: “Learn­ing to feel com­fort­able with his emo­tions will help him to be able to re­late to oth­ers as he grows up, and to make healthy choices about ev­ery­thing from friends to ca­reers,” says Mar­got. Ready? Here’s part I of M&B’s no-non­sense guide to man­ag­ing tod­dler emo­tions…

Dr Mar­got Sun­der­land is a child psy­chol­o­gist at The Cen­tre for Child Men­tal Health, and au­thor of What Ev­ery Par­ent Needs To Know

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