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Emotions can be a complicated thing. Teaching them can be a whole new ball game. Luckily you’ve come to the right spot!
Your child comes home from school, throws his backpack on the ground, and storms off to his room without saying so much as a “hello.” Whoa, what just happened there?
More than likely something happened at school that has stirred up some intense emotions. Something may have happened with other kids or a misunderstanding with an adult.
You have likely witnessed a complete meltdown of a toddler or angry response of a child. They, like many people, can experience a wide range of emotions, sometimes within a short period of time.
Spend a few minutes with a baby! They can go from happily cooing to screaming in a matter of moments, and then be back to smiling shortly thereafter.
Kids and emotions, what do I do now?
First Things First.
Keep in mind that kids are mini adults. They are trying to figure out this thing we call life!
They also experience many strong emotions such as anger, sadness, frustration, excitement, embarrassment, and joy.
The tough part for them has more to do with lack of experience than lack of ability. They haven’t learned how to respond to these strong emotions.
On their own, the world can be a scary place for children to be. They will react in the only way they know how… which often looks like a change in behavior, acting out, body language and/or secluding themselves.
Children desperately need to be taught how to deal with these crazy emotions. They should have someone in their life they can go to, or who will come to them, to help them understand things as they happen.
*ding ding* That’s where you come in!
As parents and teachers we often want a child to “just tell” us what happened. Early on they don’t have the words to describe what they are feeling, they don’t know what it is they are feeling!
Ideas to help your child learn to recognize and express emotions.
- Look for Signs. Pay attention to your child’s behavior, temperament, and things they say. These signs could provide great insight or at least clue you in that something may be going on in their little mind. They will frequently manifest outwardly when they are feeling something inwardly.
- Recognize and Name the Feelings. Take the opportunity to help them recognize and give a name to the feeling when your child is feeling a particular emotion. This can make it less daunting to deal with when they can associate it with something familiar.
- Talk About It. When your child has recognized and named a feeling, talk about it with them. Help them put into words the feelings they have experienced.
- Be the Example. People in general learn best by watching others do something, then trying it for themselves. Children watch everything you do and say. Talk to them as you experience emotions. Explain how you are feeling in response to a given situation and help them understand how you work through the emotions.
How To Teach Emotions And Make It Fun!
Create an Emotions Book.
After you have had some opportunities to introduce your child to several common emotions, take a picture of them making a face to represent each emotion. IE. Show them feeling happy, sad, angry, embarrassed, etc.
Put all of the pictures in a little book together and label them with the correct emotion. You could potentially teach them to use this book to share with you when they are feeling those emotions.
Another spin-off could be to create a memory game out of their own pictures. Print the pictures with corresponding pages that name the emotion that matches the picture.
- Read a Book.
Books have a magical way of expressing things in kid-friendly language while weaving a relatable story to illustrate.
A few book suggestions to get you started:
*Have You Filled A Bucket Today? By Carol McCloud
This story is about how each person carries a figurative bucket that is constantly being filled up or dumped out, depending on how others treat us.
This is a great book I used in my classroom to talk about how our actions can affect how others feel. We all want to be bucket fillers.
*Giraffes Can’t Dance By Giles Andreae
This story tells about a giraffe who attends a Jungle Dance and freezes up when it’s his turn to dance after being mocked by other animals. You’ll have to read it to find out what he does next! It is told in rhymes and has great illustrated pictures.
This is currently one of my daughter’s favorite books! She wants it read to her over and over again.
- Turn it into a Game! As we well know, children love to play games and learning about emotions fits right in.
Memory– create cards with pictures that represent emotions and let the child match the emotion to the name. (See the paragraph above about creating an emotions book and using their own pictures!)
Toss the Feelings Ball Write different emotion words or draw pictures representing them on a beach ball with a sharpie marker. Have your child or children sit in a circle with you and take turns tossing the ball. When they catch it, they share which emotion they “landed” on and what it is. They could also share a time they have felt that emotion.
- Check Your Emotions
While I was a classroom teacher, I observed other teachers using a fun method to help their students learn about emotions as well as clue them into how each child may be feeling.
The teacher had printed pages with pictures and words representing basic emotions. Each student had a clothes pin with their name on it.
At the beginning of the day the students would arrive at school and, after hanging up their backpacks, would use a clothes pin to ‘clip’ the picture/emotion that matched how they were feeling.
This instantly helped point the teacher in the direction of students who may have had a rough start to their day and may need extra attention to get them back on track.
This could certainly be adapted to being used at home with your own kids. They could also use this chart throughout the day to indicate when their feelings may have changed based on varying events and situations.
- Sing a song. Children love music! If it can be expressed through song, children will connect with it and remember it more easily.
“If You’re Happy and You Know It” You could begin by singing it the traditional way then making up your own verses to reflect other feelings. Two examples: “If you’re sad and you know it rub your eyes” or “If you’re angry and you know it stomp your feet.” You can also watch the video titled “If You’re Happy” below for another version of the song.
- Use a video.
Children love movies and music, so here are a few videos that combine the two in a fun learning approach.
One crucial part to parenting and other interactions with children is can be summed up in one word.
Children crave and need quality time with trusted adults. There is no material item that can replace the importance of quality time spent with a child.
Choose now to be there for your children and go through this life together!
Children are wonderful….and can be kind of complicated.
(Has anyone found that one parenting book that explains exactly how to respond to every situation?! Because I’d love a copy!)
We want to help them in any way we can, but sometimes we just aren’t sure what that “way” should look like.
Emotions can be a particularly difficult subject to teach children.
Hopefully you have found ideas that sparked your imagination and offered things you can do with your child (or students) today!
What are positive experiences you have had with teaching emotions to children? How did you learn about emotions as a child? Please share your comments and questions below!
Click Here to read 9 Essential Social Skills for Kids- Success Starts Early!
Click Here for more ideas on identifying emotions under Delightful Social Skills Activities for Kids!