Young children generally have a hard time working out how they’re feeling and how to tell people around them what’s wrong. But generally speaking, children whose early learning experiences have been positive assume their relationships with others will be the same.
Positive experiences work on a child’s brain so they have the skills and confidence to have and enjoy great relationships. Stress and challenging experiences can work in the opposite way and have a negative effect on future relationships.
Babies actually learn to deal with stress quite early on. They are held and rocked and eventually calm themselves down. As they get older, however, and things aren’t so simple, it gets more difficult to understand what’s going on in the world and how they can deal with certain situations.
Research shows that starting emotional training at a very young age can have benefits. Findings from the Impact Findings from the Head Start Cares Demonstration show it’s possible to teach children in preschool to manage their feelings and regulate their behaviour. Those improved social and emotional skills can then go on to help them spend more time engaged in learning.
Researcher Pamela Morris says research shows those children who are encouraged to talk about their emotions, and those who are in positive, happy classrooms, give more competent, positive responses to scenarios and fewer aggressive or disorganised responses.
Greg Antcliff, Goodstart Early Learning national manager professional practice, says teaching children the ability to recognise and name their own emotions is essential in developing critical competence.
And the good news for parents is that spending a little bit of extra time with your child can lead to fewer tantrums and a happier day.
“Children begin to understand labels for their own and other people’s emotions when parents and educators talk to them about the feelings that other people express in a variety of situations,” Greg says.
He says there are plenty of positive outcomes associated with naming emotions – from an increased ability to regulate their emotions to enjoying better friendships by enhancing their social skills.
“If parents talk about each person’s inner world of thoughts, feelings and perceptions, children can begin to understand that someone else might feel or think differently to them.”
He says once kids can recognise their own feelings, they can begin to empathise with other people. “It can also help give kids the language to communicate how they’re feeling, rather than acting out.”
According to the First Five Years' Snapshot of Australian Families survey, sixty-one per cent of parents say if they could ask professionals anonymous parenting questions, the number one topic they would ask about is dealing with difficult behaviour.