As children grow and learn to navigate their worlds, their experiences will be coupled with a variety of feelings. When children are unable to express themselves, it may result in increased frustration and aggressive behaviors. Talking about feelings can be difficult for children, as for many adults, and it is our jobs as caregivers to help facilitate children’s process of expression.
Which feelings should I focus on with my child?
For either younger children who do not have the language to label their feelings or older children who do not understand their feelings, it is helpful to focus on the common emotions of happy, sad, mad, and scared. These four feelings are considered to be baseline and can be used in helping your child better describe and understand their specific experiences.
How can I practice these with my child?
In order to increase your child’s understanding of these feelings, it would be beneficial to create a feelings chart. This can be a fun art project that you do with your child! First, take pictures of your child making a happy, sad, mad, and scared face. If your child is having trouble making these faces, bring out a mirror and practice doing them together. Then, put the four pictures onto a paper and label the feelings underneath each picture. Keep the chart in sight throughout the day, such as posting it on the refrigerator or cabinet. Practice using the chart by asking your child how he/she feels throughout the day. If your child is unable to voice the feeling, have him/her point to the picture. It is important that caregivers acknowledge and praise the child for his/her efforts, such as responding, “You are telling me that you are mad. Thank you for telling me.” Caregivers are also encouraged to remind the child that feeling sad, mad, and scared is not wrong so your child feels comfortable continuing to accurately express himself/herself. With continued practice with the chart, your child will begin to move towards increased self-expression.
Can this be helpful at school too?
This feeling chart can be used in any setting! It is recommended that the child use this chart in the environment that poses the most difficulties. For example, if your child is having difficulties with feeling expression while interacting with his/her classroom peers, the teacher can use the chart to help your child better communicate (via words or pointing) feelings. Increased expression of emotions can also result in more appropriate social behaviors, as your child will have more confidence using his/her words.
Questions or concerns?
If you have questions or concerns about your child’s emotional recognition and identification, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 773-332-9439. Licensed Clinical Social Worker
Photo Credit: https://kids.lovetoknow.com/feelings-chart-children