It's important for our children to learn about their emotions and the emotions of others. To be able to recognize how we are feeling and empathize with those around us. These are very important skills to have and we aren't born with them, they need to be taught.
Disclaimer: I'm not a psychologist nor do I have any professional training in dealing with emotions or mental health. I'm just a mom and former home childcare provider for 12 years. These are some of the ways I've helped children (including my own) understand their feelings and emotions. Everyone is different so this won't work for all children and families. Take what you want, adjust what you can and find what works for you.
It's never too early to start when it comes to understanding and talking about our feelings. Before a child can talk it's good to have a conversation with them when they are happy, excited, sad, or scared. At this age it's very much a one sided conversation, but it's good practice for you and as they grow up this will become common practice to talk it through. For example, changing diapers. Most babies don't like diapers changed. At this age when I lay them town to change their diaper I will say something along the lines of "I know you're upset. Having to stop playing while you get your diaper changed is no fun. But we need to change it so you don't get a sore bum because that would really hurt. Once we are done you can go back and play."
1. Acknowledge their feelings and let them know it's ok to be feeling this way.
2. Talk through the situation.
3. Solution. What should we do with our feelings or explain the end result of the situation.
Of course as they grow older you wouldn't use the same words as when they were a baby, but the general concept is still there. Letting a child know that their feelings are ok, it's ok to be sad, upset or angry. It's teaching them how to cope with those feelings and what they should and shouldn't do with them.
When my children were young, around the age when most people would start to use Time Outs, I would introduce the same kind of idea but word it as Me Time or Alone time. This is for those times when a child needed to step back/away from a situation to calm down, to help ease overwhelm or to take a moment and breathe. Whenever a meltdown or tantrum would start I would always acknowledge their BIG feelings by saying their name and then saying how they are feeling "frustrated, upset, mad, angry, worried, overwhelmed, etc. Then I would said it's ok to feel that way but we can't be 'throwing toys, or yelling.... etc' It looks like you need to go have some Alone time, or Me Time. Take a few minutes to calm down and breathe. Then you can come back and I can help you.
Letting my children know that their feelings didn't make them bad by putting them in a time out, but that their actions is what needed to be adjusted. Giving them a solution, then talking with them afterwards made a big difference.
If my kids were sad, I would acknowledge that and offer solutions to them like a hug, cuddles, talking about it, or sometimes being alone for a bit. If they are angry I let them know it's ok to be angry but they need to be careful of their actions and remember to take a moment to clam down and breathe before continuing on.
Same goes for all the good emotions - Happy, excited, silly, energetic. Have a conversation about what they are happy about (even if you know the answer). This helps children to understand their own feelings and emotions.
I hope this has been helpful and be sure to check out the following Emotion themed products in the store.