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10 Ways to Help Your Child Understand Emotions


Social-emotional learning is a key component in teaching young children. According to research, children in preschool and kindergarten are still developing the cognitive skills to understand empathy.

In order for children to grasp the concept of “empathy”, they must first be able to recognize their own emotions. Understanding what we are feeling and why will give children the tools they need to talk about deeper concepts of feeling and emotion as they grow.

Here are some ways you can help your child learn to express their feelings:
  • Throughout your routines, model labeling your own emotions (e.g., “I feel frustrated because I cannot open this jar of pickles!”).
  • Use meals and routines at the end of the day as a time to discuss the day with your children. Talk about events during the day that made you happy, times when you were frustrated and work you did that made you proud of yourself. Ask the children to share their experiences.
  • Throughout the day, help children learn to label their own emotions (e.g., it looks like you are feeling mad that we can't go outside; what can we do to help you feel better?)
  • While reading stories to children, have children guess how the characters in the story are feeling. How can children tell that the characters are feeling that way? Can the children make a face that shows that feeling?
  • During bathroom routines, have children look in mirror and practice making mad/sad/happy faces
  • When children are doing art activities, ask them to draw people displaying certain emotions. Have them come up with a reason why those people could be feeling that particular way.
  • In the morning, discuss things you are excited about for the upcoming day.
  • During mealtime, tell children about a situation that makes you feel a particular emotion (e.g., happy, sad, frustrated, angry, jealous, etc.) Then ask children to share the things that make them feel that same emotion.
  • Add more complicated emotion words to daily talk as children start to understand the basic emotions. Some appropriate examples are “proud,” “disappointed,” “embarrassed,” “surprised,” and many others.
  • Have a special snack where you give children raisin or cheerios and have them make as many emotion faces as they can with the food. After, they get to eat a fun, nutritious snack.

Click here to shop our Feelings and Emotions Tools and Toys

Source: Georgetown University Center for Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation www.ecmhc.org

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  • Chenne Daig