Teaching Children to Deal with Emotions
For children to deal effectively with the experience of strong feelings, they must first know how to identify their feelings. It is important to talk to children about their feelings and help them see the link between their feelings and their behaviour. This will help them gain an understanding of how their feelings can affect the choices they make, thus improving their level of self control. Below we explore an activity to assist children in identifying their feelings.
Identifying feelings activity
Young children can learn a variety of words to describe different feelings.
- Tell the child that you would like to talk about feelings and explain how we can get messages about how wee feel from the way our body behaves. These messages tell us how we feel about experiences. (e.g., if you win a game you might smile and laugh. If someone says something mean you might cry.)
- Ask the child to provide examples of their own feelings. E.g. “Can you tell me about a time you felt happy? Sad? Angry?” (Limit examples to three or four.)
- Next, ask the child to name as many feelings as they can, and to decide if each is a comfortable feeling (e.g. happy, excited, joyful, proud), or an uncomfortable feeling (e.g., angry, sad, embarrassed). You can use a chalkboard or paper to list feelings in two columns.
- Ask, “How do you show you are happy, sad, angry, scared, etc.?”
- Use the following situations to act out with the child (you can use puppets as above). Ask the child to name the emotion that the situation is more likely to elicit from a list provided.
- “Your class is going to receive an extra recess because they did a great job on their spelling test! [artwork, music, reading, etc.]”
- “You made a drawing and your older brother (sister) tells you that “you can’t draw.”
- “You just heard a friend say that anyone wearing a blue shirt is “stupid.”
Steps for teaching children to problem solve:
- Think about what happened. (Refer to a recent situation)
- Think of how your body feels. (It will be necessary to review several basic feeling words with young children to help them identify some ways our body tells us how we are feeling).
- Recognise the feeling.
- SAY, “I feel ______.”