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Teaching Little Kids About Big Emotions with Nadine Levitt


In today’s episode of the Gentle Parenting Show, Kim is joined by Nadine Levitt. Nadine is the leading Glocal Education Expert specializing in emotional intelligence, feelings, and inspiring the complete reimagination of the educational system. Nadine is revolutionizing the way children are educated through creativity, music, artistry, and entrepreneurship. Today Kim and Nadine talk about emotional toolkits to deal with big emotions that young children may have. 

How We Talk to Children About Emotions 

We are so much more aware in today’s world about well-being and feelings than in the past. There is more focus on emotional learning than ever before. Nadine ran into a roadblock when she was trying to find out about her own child’s sensitive feelings. A lot of literature available for children’s emotions is about controlling them or flipping a switch. 

Thinking about emotions in a controlling way only sets up both parents and children for failure – you can’t fully control the emotions. Emotions are actually trying to help us. Emotions come in groups and they’re trying to send us messages. You can’t understand the full message until you identify all the emotions that are coming at you. 

Something you can teach your children is to identify what emotions visit them together. Do jealousy and anger visit together? Do loneliness and frustration come together? Help your child to look at the whole picture, so they can understand the variety of emotions. 

Breaking Down Big Feelings and Emotions 

One of the most common emotions for young children is anger. Nadine says anger is a wonderful motivator for change. It can get a bad rep as a negative emotion, but it’s just more challenging because it’s trying to get us to change or protect something. When your child is feeling angry, ask them what their anger is trying to tell them and what should be changed in their situation. 

Nadine gives three steps for breaking down feelings. The first step, identify the emotions coming at them. The easiest way to help your child identify emotions is to identify your emotions for them, so they learn certain words that are associated with feelings. The second step is to acknowledge and become comfortable with those emotions. Nadine says the third step is “understanding your emotions are one thing, and your actions and thought patterns are something completely different.” 

Understanding the Stories We Tell Ourselves 

Our emotions turn into thought patterns and our thought patterns turn into stories we tell ourselves. These stories can cause all kinds of emotions to disrupt our day, and they’re based on very little data. Teach your children this – that our brains like to tell us stories that we don’t need to listen to. The more our children can acknowledge that they’ll be programmed to recognize these false patterns. 

The more you trust the stories in your head, the more they become expectations. Nadine says “all of life’s conflict comes from unmet expectations.” 

For parents, frustration wells up because expectations haven’t been met. In those moments, it’s really hard to share the frustrations and emotions with kids. For kids, they face disappointment when it comes to expectations because parents change behaviors. Work with your child and ask how you can work together to get clarity on what each of you needs when it comes to expectations. This is where thoughts come into play. Emotions can’t be controlled, but thoughts can. 

Teaching Emotional Intelligence 

When it comes to emotional intelligence, Nadine says that emotional intelligence is such a foundational skill that really impacts every area of your life.” It impacts academics, relationships, decision-making, everything. 

A lot of emotional learning is new, even for adults. To teach your kids emotional intelligence, regularly check in with them. Leverage play with small-time commitments. A great resource that Nadine has on her website is printable emotional characters. Nadine suggests using these in the morning to ask your kids how they’re feeling that day. Ask what emotions are coming up for them. Make this a ritual and do it purposefully. Let them know that the characters can change during the day. 

Nadine has written two books to help both parents and children with big emotions. The first is called “Inside Me Lives a Village” and the second is “Inside Me Lives a Super Hero”. Her books are all about harnessing the power to handle your own emotions and to help other people’s emotions. Her books feature emotional characters that children can use to identify their own feelings. 

Dealing With Overwhelm and Fear

One of the most common emotions in young children is overwhelm. This is when too many emotions are being processed at once.  When multiple feelings are happening inside a child, it’s overwhelming. 

Anxiety can be a very overwhelming emotion. It actually has the same bodily reaction as excitement, except one has a positive reaction and the other has a negative reaction. When your child is dealing with anxiety, remind them that their thoughts aren’t telling them the truth. It’s a chance to teach your kids to change their thoughts. Ask them to think about the next best thought. 

About fear, Nadine says “you want fear in your life – it makes you alert. But if fear gets so big it stops you from doing anything, from living life, then that’s a problem. We have to learn how to move through fear.” When your kid is dealing with fear, say to them that you can see their emotion, but you want them to know that you aren’t scared. Our children will go out into the world and have a lot of feelings, and we want them to feel empowered to feel ok. 

Connect with Nadine

Connect with Nadine and her company, WURRLYedu on their website. Follow on Instagram for more tips from Nadine.

The Sleep Lady®

The Sleep Lady is a brand, founded by Kim West, focusing on gentle sleep and parenting solutions. For over 25 years, we have helped hundreds of thousands of families get the rest they need, without leaving their children alone to cry it out. While we focus on sleep-training, we provide resources and tips for parents to help schedule their child’s day, feedings and more.

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The Gentle Parenting Show, created by Kim West - The Sleep Lady

In the Gentle Parenting Show, Kim West will interview parenting experts on everything from mindfulness to developmental milestones and how it relates to gentle parenting. Kim West is a LCSW-C, bestselling author and founder of a world-renowned gentle sleep training method. She and her team of Gentle Sleep Coaches have helped over 1 million families find gentle sleep through her courses, best-selling book and 1:1 coaching. Kim is the only baby sleep expert out there with 25-years of experience, and she’s seen everything when it comes to parenting.