Helping Your Toddler Express Emotions

Feeling and being with our emotions can be difficult and overwhelming at times. Imagine that you are just beginning to develop the common language. And in order to get your needs met for the last few months, you have relied on crying. Starting to feel all of those big feels would understandably be frustrating when crying no longer adequately expresses your needs but you don’t yet have the words either. 

Helping your child grow developmentally appropriate language to express their needs and feelings is an important piece of their cognitive and emotional development. Consider the ways in which they have learned to sit, walk, and say their first words. They are constantly observing, while others in their environment model the behavior. They interpret and process this information and begin to practice themselves. So, consider your role in their development of emotional expression:

  • Be a model

 Use appropriate feeling words as often as you can

 “That makes me feel scared that you will fall...I am sad because...I am so excited to...”

  • Naming feelings

 Until they have developed appropriate feeling words, help them name their feelings

 “I can see that you are sad that we need to leave the park...That fall was scary for you...Are you so happy to see daddy? ”

  • Foster empathy

 Displaying empathy will encourage your child’s understanding that other may feel and respond differently than them at any given time

 “It looks like your friend is feeling sad right now...Your friend looked really happy while opening her gift from you.”


What they learn now, lays the groundwork for years to come.