Top 4 Ways to Help Kids Label Emotions
Updated: Jun 26, 2019
Parents spend a lot of time and energy raising their children to be successful in life. But do parents know the value of emotion coaching?
Knowing our feelings help us manage the ups and downs in life. One of the most important skills that kids need to develop is their ability to recognize their feeling states. It is key to controlling impulses. Psychologist Dan Siegel emphasized the significance of knowing our emotions, stating that kids need to “name it, to tame it.”
Helping children know their internal feelings ranks high in helping kids develop strong executive functioning skills. It makes sense that if kids learn early on to label their feelings, they can then work on controlling their emotions. Both knowing and labeling emotions have been found to be more critical indicators of success in life than I.Q.
Children are wired to react to feelings, from hunger to pain to surprise. As language develops, feeling words also need to be introduced and practiced. If not learned early on, children may have difficulty managing emotions and may end up numbing, suppressing, or acting out on feelings, as they don’t know any better.
Once kids learn to label their feelings, they are more in command of their thoughts, bodies, and, in turn, actions. The control that labeling emotions offer kids is indispensable. Studies have found that when we label our feelings, we calm parts of our brain that are wired to react. It makes sense, kids who know their inner states, will be less likely to react without thinking.
By knowing their feelings, children have time to react. It offers them a pause and chance to connect the feeling brain to the thinking brain. Kids who can label negative feelings like hurt, afraid, and sad are more likely to respond in socially acceptable ways.
1. Label Emotions
As a parent, the first step is to be the emotional guide for your child as soon as they are born. Narrate and label any interactions from ‘happy’ and ‘sad’ to ‘excited’ and ‘frustrated’ that matches any given situation. Tune in to your child’s body language, communication, and behaviors and respond by offering a label to describe the emotion that your child is feeling.
2. Narrarate Events and their Resulting Emotions
Opportunities are boundless to identify events and feelings, whether in a book or movie or in real life. By connecting events to their resulting emotions, children build pathways that will help them manage feelings and their responses to them.
3. Be a Good Role Model
Learning by example is one of the best ways to be comfortable with emotions. Parents who label their own feelings set the stage for raising children who are in tune with their feelings.
4. Read Feelings Books
Offering board books to babies and toddlers that illustrate emotions can make the experience more tangible. My favorite is Baby Happy Baby Sad by Leslie Patricelli. It introduces the two most basic emotions to young toddlers and helps them see that emotions are real and connects feelings states to experiences.
As bedtime reading, Jo Witek’s In My Heart captures a wide range of feelings for school-age kids. Normalizing feelings is the theme as the author playfully describes scenarios and labels them accordingly.
The ideal outcome for any parent is to hear their 4-year old boy express their anger instead of showing it, “Dad, I’m angry!” That’s the best reward.
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