Emotions are complicated. Even as adults, we sometimes have issues recognizing and expressing emotions correctly. For children and teens, emotions can be confusing and challenging at times. Teaching your child how to properly identify and express her emotions is crucial for her emotional well-being.
When teaching your child to recognize and positively express her feelings and emotions:
Start Young and Continually Expand
Even though they don’t understand them, emotions are present at birth. Toddlers and preschool age kids can comprehend simple emotions such as happy, sad, scared, and mad. As your child grows, help introduce and identify more complex emotions such as excited, disgust, disappointed, and nervous. Even as a teen, your child can learn new vocabulary to describe her feelings and emotions. The older she gets, the greater and more specific her emotion vocabulary can be.
Encourage and Reinforce
Teaching your child to verbalize her emotions instead of acting on them can be a useful technique. Children, especially young children, tend to act first, due in part to their lack of comprehension of emotions and feelings. Encouraging and praising her proper response, such as telling her friend she is mad instead of hitting her, can go a long way.
Children learn best by example. Watching the behaviors of parents and other adults can affect children’s behavior. Verbalizing and positively expressing emotions regularly demonstrate emotional awareness and positive expression for your child.
Play a Game
Emotions can be a complicated and confusing subject for your child. Turning it into a fun and interactive game can help. Creating simple games like “emotion memory” or “emotion charades”, can help introduce and identify different emotions. As she grows, expand the emotions included.
Make it Universal
It is important that your child realizes that everybody has emotions and feelings, even if they are not good at expressing them. The possibilities are endless when looking for opportunities to show this. Initiating an age-appropriate conversation about different emotions is easy to do. Situations are available everywhere, including magazines, books, movies, and real life situations. Start off by asking “how do you think he is feeling?”. You can then follow with other age appropriate questions of “why” and even help problem solve if necessary, by asking questions such as “what do you think might make him feel better?”.
Sources: About.com | MSU.edu | Vanderbilt.edu
Helping Your Child Identify and Positively Express Emotions
Shandy Marso, Contributor