Talking to your toddler about your feelings

Because Baby is still just starting to understand their own emotions, it can be hard for them to know what you’re feeling. They know when you’re happy, and it’s probably pretty easy to tell when you’re upset, but what about everything in between? Talking to your toddler about your feelings can help you form a deeper bond, as well as help Baby, understand more about their own emotions. 

Why you should talk about your feelings

Baby has many of the same emotions that you do, but they hasn&;t had your years of experience in dealing with them. When you talk to your toddler about how you’re feeling, they can make connections to how they feel sometimes. This tells them that those feelings are normal, manageable, and something even cool grown-ups like you experience. Everything: happy, joyful, ecstatic, confused, frustrated, jealous, sad, upset, angry – they’re all normal feelings. Being a little vulnerable and talking to Baby about these emotions will let them know that they can come to you to talk about them any time they need to talk to you about their feelings.

How you can do it

Talking about your emotions doesn’t always feel natural. The lucky thing is that you’re already kind of in explainer-mode during life with a toddler, so you can sometimes slip it into other conversations about the world. Common questions like “Why is the sky blue?” can be perfect. “Because of all the colors you can see in the light of the sun, blue gets scattered in the most directions because it has the shortest wavelength, so you can see blue everywhere. It makes me feel really happy to look at the sky because it’s so beautiful – how does it make you feel?” You can also bring up emotions as you’re feeling them, like when you’re proud that Baby tried something new or (calmly) frustrated about traffic.

Happy emotions are pretty easy and fun to talk about, but unhappy emotions are just as important. You can start conversations about these feelings as they’re happening if they’re on the happy side of unhappiness (frustration, confusion, mild annoyance), but for more serious ones, you might use a proxy. You can point out how characters look or behave when they’re upset in Baby‘s books. “See, when Angelica’s upset, she doesn’t want to talk to anyone. I feel that way sometimes when I’m upset, so I just take some time to myself to calm down until I feel better.” You can ask Baby what they feel like doing when they are upset and work together on things that might help them feel better. 

This will hopefully be an ongoing conversation with Baby, and you can add layers as they get older. Their emotions are going to become more complicated, but you’ll have a foundation of trust and understanding by being open about your emotions at this early age. It’ll feel good, and bad, and everything in between.

  • “Talking About Your Feelings.” KidsHealth. The Nemours Foundation. April 2015.
  • “It’s easy to see that the sky is blue. Have you ever wondered why?” NASA Space Place. NASA. May 11, 2017.

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