How can you help children with their emotions?
Listen, pay attention to them and tune into cues such as their facial expressions and their body language. Notice their behaviours, are they speaking less, do they seem withdrawn, angry or sad.
Understand that behind every behaviour is a feeling. Ask yourself what is it that they are trying to tell me about this behaviour? Could they be worried about something, frustrated or frightened?
Talk to them and ask them about what is happening. Be curious, give them time to respond and reassure them it’s OK to talk about what’s on their mind.
If they struggle to explain what is happening you can use toys or puppets as a way of helping them talk about what is on their mind. Drawing is also a great way to explore emotions with children. Reading picture books and pointing to the character’s feelings is a very effective way to help children identify feelings in themselves and others.
Talk to your child and show them new ways to manage their emotions. Tell them how you cope with feelings, help them problem-solve and suggest and practice ways they can manage next time they are struggling with a big feeling.
When children learn to express their feelings when they are young, they are off to a great emotional start!
Feelings Charts to teach feelings
An easy way to begin to teach young children the words for feelings is to use a Feelings Chart. A typical feelings chart will have a range of photographs or drawings of different emotions. The more colourful and obvious the emotions the better children will be able to identify them.
You can make your own by cutting out pictures of feelings from magazines. Ideally start with basic feelings such as happy, sad, angry, scared, worried, calm, excited, silly and disgusted.
Paste the photographs onto a large piece of cardboard and underneath each picture write in clear letters the name of each feeling.
If you would prefer a ready-made feelings chart our Dealing in Feelings –My First Feelings Chart is an ideal emotions chart for teaching feelings to preschoolers. The chart contains 12 feelings that are readily recognised by very young children. It is illustrated with photographs of cute animal expressions and is based on our award-winning book Feelings and Me. Kids love looking at the animals and naming their feelings!
How to use a Feelings Chart
Once you have your Feelings Chart, keep it handy so you can use it daily. If you are using one at home you could try fixing it to your fridge with a magnet or pin it to a pin-up board.
In a preschool or classroom, placing it where children can see it at their eye level is important. You can also have one that you can use at a table or hold up in front of the group.
Each day, have a feelings check-in. Ask your child to point to the feeling photo that shows how they are feeling that day.
Name the feeling for them, because this helps teach feelings words. Point to how you are feeling too!
You can involve the entire family in this check-in. If you are in a classroom, ask each child to take a turn using the feelings chart to check-in as they come into the classroom each day.
Feelings charts are a simple but very effective way of developing emotional literacy in children and an ideal way to teach kids about feelings.
Children and Divorce
The decision to divorce is never easy and its impact on the family unit is always a major one.
Children are frequently confused and distressed when divorce occurs. All children respond differently, however it is normal for children to show a range of emotional reactions to such a significant and stressful life event.
Some children may become withdrawn and sad. Some become anxious, whilst other children may externalise their distress and act out or become non-compliant and angry.
Younger children may regress and behaviours that had previously not been a problem such as sleeping, separating and eating may become challenging again. All of these reactions are normal when the security of a child’s family is so significantly changed.
However, there are steps that adults can take to lessen the emotional impact of divorce on children.
Be a Calm Role Model
Whilst on the inside you are likely feeling a range of very strong emotions yourself, it is important that you try and model calmness around your children. If you are inconsolable with sadness or consumed with rage, your children will be negatively impacted by your distress. It’s important to seek emotional support from other adults, not from your children
Accept your Child’s Emotions
Just as you are experiencing a range of strong emotions so is your child. Talk to your child about the situation and where you can, try and answer their questions. Let them know that you understand and accept their feelings and how hard it is for them. You don’t have to have all the answers yet, but just listening and acknowledging that it is ok to talk about their feelings will help.
Keep to Routines
Routines are important because they help children predict what will happen next. This is especially the case for infants and toddlers who don’t have language skills yet. When children have regular and predictable routines they feel safe and secure.
Divorce will almost inevitably impact your child’s routine because there may be changes to where they live and new shared parenting arrangements. Try and keep a consistent routine, particularly at bedtime and mealtimes.