Encouraging Young Children to Express Feelings about Family Transitions
Kim Leon, Ph.D., Former Human Development and Family Studies, College of Human Environmental Sciences, University of Missouri-Columbia
Young children often express their feelings through play or artwork, instead of talking about them. You can provide your child with play materials that may help him or her express feelings. Suggested materials for toddlers are: playdoh or clay, art supplies, puppets, dolls, dollhouse and furniture, stuffed animals, and dress-up clothes. Watch your children playing and notice themes that seem related to family changes, for example, pretending to pack a suitcase and move away. Try to avoid correcting your child's play or drawings or asking direct questions. Children are more likely to open up when adults watch them, wait until the child is ready to talk, and make indirect comments, like "I wonder why your doll is sad."
Reading short, simple books with your older infant or toddler can help
your child express feelings and learn language. Books
can be a good starting point for talking with older
toddlers about their feelings. For example, you can
begin with questions or comments about the story such
as, "Those baby owls look very sad. Why do you think
they're so sad?" then move to questions about your
child's feelings, for example, "What makes you feel
sad?" or "I bet they think their mommy's not coming
back. Do you think that sometimes?" Books that address
the topics of feelings, families, and separation are
especially appropriate for this age group. Some
recommended books for infants and toddlers are:
Guess How Much I Love You! Sam McBratney & Anita Jeram (1994).
Candlewick Press. A warm story about a father rabbit's
boundless love for his baby bunny.
Owl Babies. Martin Waddell & Patrick Benson (1996). Candlewick
Press. In this book, three baby owls find their mother
gone, wonder where she is, and are reassured when she
returns. This is a comforting story for children who are
having problems with separation anxiety.
I Love You All the Time. Jessica Hirschman, Jennifer Cole, &
Bonnie Bright (2000). Cookie Bear Press, Inc. This story
reminds children that their parents and other family
members love them no matter where they live or how busy
Baby Faces. Margaret Miller (1998). Little Simon. Features color
photographs that capture the moods and expressions of
babies of diverse ethnic backgrounds.
How are You Peeling: Foods with Moods. Saxton Freymann & Joost Elffers (1999). Arther A. Levine Books. This funny, clever book features brightly colored photographs of vegetables and fruits that appear to have facial expressions.
Last Updated 05/11/2009