Children will often act out because they don't have the words to express themselves. With this in mind, teaching your children about the many emotions that they will encounter in life can be very helpful.
Through observation, children learn how to express emotions, as well as respond to emotions shown by others.
The Benefits Of Teaching Children Feelings Include:
Children who understand their emotions are less likely to act out by using tantrum behavior, aggression, and/or defiance.
Learning and normalizing feelings decreases anxiety.
Emotional health is critical to physical health.
Understanding emotions leads to better communication, emotion regulation (which leads to less unhealthy behaviors), problem resolution, relationships, and empathy.
Children who understand emotions are more emotionally intelligent, self-compassionate, and resilient.
Tips For Teaching Children About Feelings:
- Start by teaching kids the feelings "happy," "sad," "mad" and "scared" (appropriate for ages 2-4). Then, teach them more like "frustration," "disappointment," embarrassment" and "grumpy."
- Have children identify feelings by remembering that a feeling is one word ("happy" is one word; "sad" is one word). "I felt like nobody liked me" is a thought (thoughts are more than one word).
- Discuss the many aspects of feelings, such as facial features (make emotions faces together), physical features (e.g., heart racing, muscle tension), and behaviors ("what do people do when they feel mad?") related to each feeling. Also discuss the events that influence each emotion.
- Remember that the intensity of feelings can change. A rating system of 1-to-10 (where 10 is most intense) can be helpful. There are also images online of feelings thermometers that are useful.
- Use games, play, role playing, and characters in movies, TV shows, and books to discuss feelings. Discuss other people's feelings (this will also teach empathy)
- Praise Your Child for using emotion words in an appropriate manner (e.g., "I'm so proud of how you told me you were mad".
- Mirror or label your child's emotions when they are feeling it (e.g., "I can see that you're very disappointed." There is no better way to truly teach children about an emotion than when they are feeling it!
- Remember that we can feel many emotions all at once. We can feel sad, mad, and disappointed all at the same time.
- Model appropriate emotional expression and use of emotion words. Remember that children learn through observation. Use emotion words daily to describe your day (e.g., I was very frustrated today because I was running late. But I felt better by lunch)
- Use a feelings chart to help children identify and differentiate emotions. We have some great Feelings Chart downloads for free.