Between the ages of three and five years, a preschooler’s ability to empathize grows. This growth starts with the ability to understand their own feelings. At age three, young preschoolers are developing their awareness of their own feelings. By ages four and five, they often know when they are feeling sad, happy, angry, etc.
Expressing and Managing Feelings
It can be difficult for preschoolers to express and manage their feelings. This is completely normal! In fact, preschoolers are learning that how they express their feelings can impact themselves and others. For example, a three-year-old may throw a block because they are angry at a friend. With adult support and modeling, they learn that throwing is not an option because it could hurt someone. Instead, when they are angry, they can use their words and say, “Please stop.” or take a break.
Preschoolers also have an acute awareness of fairness, and they are better able to imagine what it might be like to be another person. While they know everyone has and feels emotions, they are still developing the skills needed to react to others in appropriate ways. For example, a preschooler may express nervous laughter when someone hurts themselves or get defensive when they make a mistake.
Responding to Others’ Feelings
By age three, your preschooler will begin to respond to others with more sophisticated thought. For example, if you yawn as if you are tired or shiver when you are cold, your child might bring you a blanket. While they are growing in their awareness, they have much to learn and will need adult help to understand how to respond. It is important that we remind preschoolers to think about how it might make them feel and what they could say when another is experiencing a strong emotion.
Teaching Empathy & Kindness