Young children deal with many of the same emotions just as we adults do! They get angry, sad, frustrated, worried, happy, or embarrassed, but often do not have the words to express themselves. Instead, they sometimes act out their feelings in inappropriate ways.
The ability to recognise different feelings in ourselves and others is a skill that goes on to affect our social interactions and relationships in the long term! Here are 4 steps you can take to help your children be more aware of their own emotions and that of others.
1. NAME THEIR FEELINGS (Self-awareness)
- Help children identify their feelings by giving their feelings a name! By doing so, you are helping your child to develop the vocabulary they can use to talk about feelings. For example, you might say, "Mummy had to go to work so you felt SAD".
- Find as many opportunities as you can during the day to help your child identify emotions in themselves. For example, you might say, "We are going to the playground! You are smiling! Are you feeling EXCITED?"
2. NAME THE FEELINGS OF OTHERS (Awareness of Others)
- Teach your child to identify the emotions in others by drawing their attention to the feelings of friends and family. For example, you might say, "Greg fell down and dropped his ice cream. He is crying as he feels SAD", or "You snatched Sarah's toy. How do you think she is feeling?”.
- Talk about your own feelings with your children. For example, you might say, "Mummy cannot get the phone to work. It is making me so ANGRY."
3. FACIAL EXPRESSIONS & BODY LANGUAGE
- Direct your child's attention to the facial expressions and body language of others. This helps them to learn to attend to how others may be feeling, as well as helping them notice such signs in themselves. For example, you might say, "Look at Jon's face. He is frowning. He is shouting and stomping his feet. How do you think he is feeling?"
- Use visuals to aid their understanding. Use visuals such as a Feelings Poster (see ours here!) or feelings books. Our Feelings Worksheets are also a hands-on way to reinforce their learning.
4. PROVIDE LABELLED PRAISE! (Positive Reinforcement)
- Praise your child when he tries to talk about his feelings instead of acting out. Provide labelled praise that is specific to let your child know exactly what she did well! This will encourage them to continue these behaviours in future. For example, instead of saying "well done!", you can might say, “I am so proud of you for telling me with your words that you are angry instead of screaming!”
To be continued in the second part of this series where we will cover 4 more steps on helping our children to calm down :)
Emotional Learning Resources on our site: