Empathy and Managing Emotions: the Beginning of Problem Solving

thinking by the river

Very young children are full of fun and curiosity. Interacting with children this age can be a complete joy–until frustration sets in.  Tiny fists ball up, faces turn red and any adult present wonders how such a loud wail can emit from such a tiny being.  This typical reaction to frustration can be lessened, and eventually eliminated, by helping your child learn positive problem-solving skills.
Children are natural learners and they do this best by modeling those they interact with on regularly, which is most often their parents.  It has been found that using a five-step approach, you can teach your child to master problem-solving skills. Each step builds on the one before it. These steps are:

*Model a passive problem-solving method

*Model active problem-solving skills

*Place your child in situations where they need to use problem-solving skills

*Use naturally-occurring events to teach problem-solving skills

*Allow your child to attempt problem-solving skills without interfering

We will be discussing each of these steps in greater detail in the next few articles.  These steps can began as soon as a child starts taking an interest in her surroundings.  Children who can’t yet talk still watch for cues from those around them on how to behave and deal with situations they are learning. It will take time and patience, however, because to fully understand what a problem is, a child needs to be able to identify emotions- their own and those of others.  Below are some ways you can start teaching your verbal child to do that.  It is something you can start now as you anticipate learning the five problem-solving steps.

What is that feeling?

Once a child starts talking, you can help them learn to identify their feelings.  This is an important skill necessary for being able to handle emotions.  Making it fun to learn will go help make this easier.

*Print out one of the many worksheets that show faces with different expressions.  At first, you can have your child repeat each emotion as you point at it.  Let this progress to you naming an emotion and having your child choose the correct face.

*Use television time and reading time to discuss emotions.  Ask your little one what he thinks a certain character is feeling at that moment.  Is she happy with her present or nervous about making a new friend?

*Teach your child to associate the body sensations accompanying different emotions by first acknowledging what the child is feeling and then describing what usually happens when a person feels that way.  For example, if she is excited about going somewhere, you can say you bet she is excited and then go on to say something like, “I bet it is very hard to be still.  Do you feel like you might explode if we have to wait too long?”

Looking ahead

When we touch base again, we will discuss modeling a passive problem-solving method, the first step in this process.  I promise you it is not as difficult as it sounds.


Thomas Learning Centers provides NECPA accredited preschool and childcare at the most affordable rates in the Denver Metro Area.  Check us out at http://www.thomaslearningcenters.com , click on the offers below, drop in for a visit to get to know more about us. We’d love to meet you!

Call  877-938-1442 for general info

Lakewood 303-237-0917 or Westminster 303-427-8831


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