Children and adults alike experience a wide range of feelings and emotions. As adults, we have learned how to handle our emotions in an appropriate manner. Nonetheless, feelings and how we respond to them can be a difficult concept for children to grasp. It is not uncommon for children, prior to understanding feelings and how to handle them, to act out or express their feelings in a negative way. The first step to teach kids about feelings is to help them understand what feelings are.
It is important to remember that a child has to understand feelings before he/she can talk about them. There are a lot of ways to teach them! You can give feelings names (i.e. happy, sad, mad, scared) to help children understand how they feel. Talk about feelings in words that your child can understand. There are lot of books and videos available to highlight and label different emotions with visuals, which is always great for little ones.
Some of my favorites are:
The Feeings Book by Todd Par
I am Happy: A Touch and Feel Book of Feelings by Steve Light
Today I Feel Silly: And Other Moods that Make my Day by Jamie Lee Curtis
Observe your child and comment about their feelings. For example, if you see your child smiling or laughing while playing with a toy you could say, “I see you smiling! You’re happy!” Talking about feelings openly is so important to helping them understand, and that includes talking about your own feelings. This way, they’ll know that’s an okay thing to do.
You can make it fun! Games are a great way to help children identify and understand feelings. You can make a face, and ask your child to identify which emotion you’re expressing. You could also create a book for each emotion, like a “Happy Book” that you have your child color and fill the page with things that make them happy. Make sure to reward your children with praise when they use their words to talk about their feelings!
Understanding emotions is an important and sometimes difficult part of a child’s development. It is up to adults to help guide children by helping them understand emotions, helping them express their emotions, and always providing lots of praise when they do express their feelings in a positive way.