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Published on January 8, 2021

How To Teach Your Kid About Emotions And Feelings

How To Teach Your Kid About Emotions And Feelings

Imagine yourself having a feeling—anger, for example. You know you feel something strong, like a volcano ready to erupt, but you can’t express it. You don’t have the words to describe what you’re feeling. Maybe you’ll start acting it out—stomping your feet, breaking things, hitting—which may not be very appropriate if anger happens to be the emotion. And when people still don’t get why you’re acting so loony, you might develop yet another feeling—frustration.

Children have the same emotions adults do. Adult emotions are the same as emotions for kids. They just don’t have the vocabulary—the repertoire available to them—to be able to convey what they’re feeling.

When they come into this world, children—for all intents and purposes—are blank canvases. It is up to you, the parent, to teach them how to express themselves in the healthiest way possible. The skills you teach them will go a long way in helping them develop their ability to communicate suitably as they grow into adults. That’s why teaching your kids about emotions and feelings is so important.

Now, just because a child cannot articulate what they feel inside doesn’t mean they’re not feeling frustrated, angry, disappointed, etc. All those feelings are in there, ready to come out when they’re triggered. Children just need to understand what they are and to learn the words that best describe them. That’s where you come in.

By the age of two, children can really start to soak things up. Don’t ever think it is too early to begin instructing them how to react with words rather than behavior, especially negative behavior. You can start by teaching your kids basic emotions, such as happy, sad, mad, and scared.

According to the article Teaching Your Child About Emotions, “by four to six years old, most children can recognize and understand the basic emotions: happy, sad, angry, and afraid. More complex emotions (such as pride, guilt, and shame) are built on basic emotions. A child should have a good understanding of the basic emotions before she is introduced to more complex emotions.”[1]

Teaching opportunities are always present. For example, when you’re putting Little Lily to bed and she starts to cry the minute you head for the door, you might want to say something like, “It looks like you’re feeling scared because I’m leaving you alone.” Then, you can sit with her and talk about what she’s feeling—the fear she might be experiencing. At this point, you can also reassure her that everything is fine and that you’re just in the next room if she needs you.

As your child gets older, you can progress into teaching them about more complex emotions, such as disappointment, frustration, and nervousness, among many others.

I remember in an old I Love Lucy episode, Little Ricky was going to be playing the drums in a show. Lucy was anxious and expressed her nervousness. Little Ricky heard her say it and then started asking what “nervous” was. You can imagine that after Lucy and Ricky finished explaining it, Little Ricky no longer wanted to play the drums because he was “nervous.”

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Of course, right before a performance is probably not the best time to teach your little one about being nervous, but you get the idea. Use as many teaching moments as you can.

Here are some examples of ways in which you can begin teaching your kids about emotions and feelings:

1. Name the Feelings

Whenever you see your kid acting out emotions, that’s the time to start educating them. Suppose you’re at the park. Little Beaver is having a grand ‘ole time, but you have a dentist appointment and need to leave. You tell Little Beaver and he crosses his arms and starts stomping his feet. You can practically see the smoke coming out of his ears.

A good way to start teaching him about his emotions is to name the feeling by saying, “You’re feeling angry that you have to leave the park, but we have a dentist appointment now. We’ll come back another day.” You put a name to the feeling, and he now has access to a word for his behavior.

Or suppose that Little Beaver is going to get picked up for a sleepover. He’s smiling, looking out the window every few minutes, and asking what time it is. This is a good time to name his feelings. “Wow, you’re excited about seeing your friend, aren’t you?”

Human beings are constantly feeling, children included. It’s not going to be very difficult to have coaching moments show up throughout the day. Use them to your advantage.

2. Use Characters From Their Favorite TV Shows or Movies.

There’s an excellent PBS show, PBS KIDS Talk About Feelings and Emotions, that has adults asking children about feelings, what they think they are, and how to manage them. It’s a marvelous show to watch with your little ones—it’s a way to discuss what they’re personally feeling and ways to express it.

Another movie, which I think is one of the best, both for children and adults, is Inside Out. In this film, all the emotions have a character. Each one acts out their feelings. Essentially, the movie speaks about the necessity to know your feelings and to be able to express them in the best way.

By the way, one of the many, many things I loved about Inside Out is that it teaches its audience that it’s okay to experience all types of feelings. There is no right or wrong when it comes to feelings—only how they are expressed is important.

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3. Read Books That Have Characters Dealing With Emotions

One of my favorite books is Love You Forever by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Sheila McGraw. This book is so good, I’ve read it several times myself. It’s a heartfelt story that you can read to your children to teach about different emotions—frustration, anger, love, sadness, etc.

As you read the book, you can ask your child, “What do you think his mommy is feeling right now after her son made a mess in the kitchen?” Or, “What do you think the man is feeling seeing his mom old and frail?” This is a great opportunity to talk about the different stages of life and the feelings we may experience throughout and teach your kids about emotions and feelings.

4. Teach Songs That Talk About Feelings

You probably know this one already—maybe even sang it yourself as a child or to your child, but there’s a great song called If You’re Happy and You Know It! This is a delightful song to teach your children about happiness. It’s a catchy tune that goes something like this:

“If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands…stomp your feet…shout hurray,” etc. It’s a fun, active way to teach the emotion of happiness to kids.

Another great song to teach about being happy, sad, angry, etc. is Feelings and Emotions Song for Kids. It’s a very cute little tune that helps children understand the different feelings and what behavior is typically associated with it.

5. Talk About How Other People Feel

We have Family Night once a week at our house. My granddaughter is 9, and she loves to talk. We usually go around the table sharing the highlights of our day. When it’s her turn, she’s Ms. Chatty Kathy. But when it’s the next person’s turn, she usually tunes out, starts sliding down on her chair, or gets up to leave. The focus is no longer on her, so she’s not interested.

I’ve used this time to teach my kid about other people’s emotions and feelings. For instance, I’ll say, “Sophia, you had your turn and everyone listened attentively. How do you think your brother feels when he’s trying to share his day and you get up and leave the table?” Then, she’ll say something like, “Sad?” And I’ll respond, “Yes, that’s right, he feels sad that you don’t want to listen to him.” She usually gets the point.

Even at nine, she still needs to be taught that other people have feelings too and that it’s important for her to respect them. This is also a good time to teach empathy.

6. Make It a Habit to Label Your Own Feelings

My father passed away recently. Obviously, I felt very sad and depressed. My granddaughter lives next door and has been part of the entire process, from the moment my dad fell to four weeks later when he died.

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After the initial fall, I told her, “I’m scared that Abuelo may not make it.” Or, “I went to the hospital to visit Abuelo and got very sad at seeing him so helpless.” Even after his death, I expressed yet another feeling—relief. “I’m so relieved that he died at home and happy that he’s no longer suffering.”

This was a very hard blow for me and everyone in the family. Fortunately, we all got an excellent chance to express our feelings at the memorial. And as 9-year-old Sophia listened earnestly, she was able to formulate her own feelings, “Abuelo was a nice man. He always fixed things for me. I’m sad I didn’t get to know him better.” It was very beautiful to hear.

7. Explain Other People’s Emotions

Children are ego-centric. They believe the world revolves around them. Egocentric thinking is the “normal tendency for a young child to see everything that happens as it relates to him- or herself. This is not selfishness. Young children are unable to understand different points of view.”[2]

For instance, if your young child happens to be jumping up and down and coincidentally an earthquake hits, they will more than likely think they caused the earthquake. Their young age prevents them from knowing any differently. Similarly, when parents divorce, the child automatically believes that it is their fault—that they must have done something wrong to cause the breakup.

Because they believe they’re the center of the universe, it’s difficult for kids to comprehend that other people have emotions and feelings too. And if they do, they might believe they caused them.

Use adequate occasions to explain how other people feel, and also explain they’re not always responsible for the feeling of others. For instance, in the case of an imminent divorce, you may want to say, “Your father and I are getting a divorce, but it has nothing to do with you. We both love you very much. We understand it’s very sad for you. For us too!”

8. Use Pictures or Emojis

Another great way to teach your children about feelings and emotions is via pictures and emojis. I recall that on one of my visits to the hospital to see my dad, I noticed different little emoji faces on a board from which a patient could choose to express their pain level. That can be done with children.

When they’re feeling something that you recognize, you can show them emojis and ask, “Which feeling are you having now? Can you choose one of these?” You may first want to go over each one explaining what they mean.

There’s also a video you may want to watch with your children, Educational video – Feelings and Emotions With Emojis. Not only will it help you teach them about this important topic, but it’ll also give you some good bonding time.

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Another great perk that results from teaching emotions to kids, especially anger and frustration, is that they will be more unlikely to act out. For instance, by encouraging them to use words to express their anger, they won’t lash out by hitting. At least they’ll have the words available to them.

9. Monkey See, Monkey Do!

Your children are watching you all the time. They’re practically like a surveillance camera. They pay very close attention. So, if your child sees you throw your phone across the room after a heated conversation, it’s duly noted.

Always be aware of your feelings and how you are expressing them. Are you using words or inappropriate behavior? If you’re driving down the 405 and someone cuts you off, do you flip him off? Lots of people do that. If you have a child in the car, remember, they’re paying attention. You’re modeling what to do when you become angry. Instead of flipping someone off, which does absolutely no good, say, “It makes me angry when I get cut off. It scares me because it may cause an accident.”

Final Thoughts

By teaching your kids about their feelings and emotions and what words to use to describe them, it opens up a whole new world for them. It’s like Helen Keller when she finally understood the meaning of words.

In the movie The Miracle Worker, there’s an amazing scene where she learns that water has a name—that everything had a name. After that, there was no stopping her—her world completely opened up. That scene still gives me chills to this day.

When you take the time and make the effort to explain what feelings and emotions are, you’re investing in your child’s well-being jar. If you can teach your children what feelings are, how they impact others, not to mention themselves, you are creating mentally strong children that will grow into mentally strong adults. And as parents, that’s what we all aspire!

More About Handling Kids’ Emotions

Featured photo credit: Asim Z Kodappana via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] ConnectAbility: Teaching Your Child About Emotions
[2] Michigan Medicine: Egocentric and Magical Thinking

More by this author

Rossana Snee

Rossana is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist. She aspires to motivate, to inspire, and to awaken your best self!

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Published on April 9, 2021

50 Single Mom Quotes On Staying Strong And Loving

50 Single Mom Quotes On Staying Strong And Loving

Being a mom is not easy. Being a single mom is even more challenging. Having children means you are on the job 24/7. Even while you are sleeping, you are still ready to wake at the slightest peep because that is what moms do.

Moms, especially single moms, need more people cheering them on. Your love and care matter to your kids. You are their superhero. I think single moms are superheroes, too.

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The quotes below are words of encouragement for all of the single moms out there. Keep up the great work! Your hard work will pay off. Someday, they will be grown up and living on their own. Your job will never truly be done as a mom, but you can pat yourself on the back today and every day for doing mom duty day in and day out.

Here are 50 single mom quotes to encourage all the single moms out there.

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  1. “Being raised by a single mother, I learned to appreciate and value independent women.”—Kenny Conley
  2. “As a single mum you’ll discover inner strengths and capabilities you never knew you had.”—Emma-Louise Smith
  3. “One thing I know for sure – this motherhood thing is not for sissies.”—Jennifer Nettles
  4. “Mothers and their children are in a category all their own. There’s no bond so strong in the entire world. No love so instantaneous and forgiving.”—Gail Tsukiyama
  5. “And one day she discovered that she was fierce and strong, and full of fire and that not even she could hold herself back because her passion burned brighter than her fears.”—Mark Anthony
  6. “She never quite leaves her children at home, even when she doesn’t take them along.”—Margaret Culkin Banning
  7. “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.”—Alice Walker
  8. “Everyone has inside of her a piece of good news. The good news is that you don’t know how great you can be, how much you can love, what you can accomplish, and what your potential is.”—Anne Frank
  9. “Doubt is a killer. You just have to know who you are and what you stand for.”—Jennifer Lopez
  10. “You are more powerful than you know; you are beautiful just as you are.”—Melissa Etheridge
  11. “Motherhood is the greatest thing and the hardest thing.”—Ricki Lake
  12. “You don’t take a class; you’re thrown into motherhood and learn from experience.”—Jennie Finch
  13. “If you look at what you have in life, you’ll always have more. If you look at what you don’t have in life, you’ll never have enough.”—Oprah Winfrey
  14. “I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.”—Charlotte Brontë
  15. “Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.”—Nora Ephron
  16. “When a woman becomes her own best friend life is easier.”—Diane Von Furstenberg
  17. “If you want something said, ask a man; if you want something done, ask a woman.”—Margaret Thatcher
  18. “Women have discovered that they cannot rely on men’s chivalry to give them justice.”—Helen Keller
  19. “Successful mothers are not the ones that have never struggled. They are the ones that never give up, despite the struggles.”—Sharon Jaynes
  20. “Success, they taught me, is built on the foundation of courage, hard work, and individual responsibility. Despite what some would have us believe, success is not built on resentment and fears.”—Susana Martinez
  21. “You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.”—Maya Angelou
  22. “The question isn’t who’s going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.”—Ayn Rand
  23. “God could not be everywhere, and therefore he made mothers.”—Rudyard Kipling
  24. “The women whom I love and admire for their strength and grace did not get that way because stuff worked out. They got that way because stuff went wrong, and they handled it. They handled it in a thousand different ways on a thousand different days, but they handled it. Those women are my superheroes.”—Elizabeth Gilbert
  25. “There will be so many times you feel like you failed. But in the eyes, ears, and mind of your child, you are a SUPER MOM.”—Stephanie Precourt
  26. “Motherhood is the ultimate call to sacrifice.”—Wangechi Mutu
  27. “We may encounter many defeats but we must not be defeated.”—Maya Angelou
  28. “A mother’s arms are more comforting than anyone else’s.”—Princess Diana
  29. “There’s no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one.”—Jill Churchill
  30. “There’s no doubt that motherhood is the best thing in my life. It’s all that really matters.”—Courtney Cox
  31. “I realized when you look at your mother, you are looking at the purest love you will ever know.”—Mitch Albom
  32. “I have found being a mother has made me emotionally raw in many situations. Your heart is beating outside your body when you have a baby.”—Kate Beckinsale
  33. “Single moms, you are a doctor, a teacher, a nurse, a maid, a cook, a referee, a heroine, a provider, a defender, a protector, a true Superwoman. Wear your cape proudly.”—Mandy Hale
  34. “I’m not really single. I mean, I am, but I have a son. Being a single mother is different from being a single woman.”—Kate Hudson
  35. “Being a single parent is twice the work, twice the stress, and twice the tears but also twice the hugs, twice the love, and twice the pride.”—Unknown
  36. “For me, motherhood is learning about the strengths I didn’t know I had, and dealing with the fears I didn’t know existed.”—Halle Berry
  37. “A single mom tries when things are hard. She never gives up. She believes in her family, even when things are tough. She knows that above all things… a mother’s love is more than enough.”—Denice Williams
  38. “You do the best you can. Some days you feel really good about yourself and some days you don’t.”—Katie Holmes
  39. “I would say to any single parent currently feeling the weight of stereotype or stigmatization that I am prouder of my years as a single mother than of any other part of my life.”JK Rowling
  40. “Just because I am a single mother doesn’t mean I cannot be a success.”—Yvonne Kaloki
  41. “I didn’t plan on being a single mom, but you have to deal with the cards you are dealt the best way you can.”—Tichina Arnold
  42. “Nothing you do for children is ever wasted.”—Garrison Keillor
  43. “A single mom tries when things are hard. She never gives up. She believes in her family, even when things are tough. She knows that above all things, a mother’s love is more than enough.”—Deniece Williams
  44. “Motherhood has a very humanizing effect. Everything gets reduced to essentials.”—Meryl Streep
  45. “Having kids—the responsibility of rearing good, kind, ethical, responsible human beings—is the biggest job anyone can embark on.”—Maria Shriver
  46. “Mother is a verb. It’s something you do. Not just who you are.”—Cheryl Lacey Donovan
  47. “A mother’s love for her child is like nothing else in the world. It knows no law, no pity, it dates all things and crushes down remorselessly all that stands in its path.”—Agatha Christie
  48. “A mother’s arms are more comforting than anyone else’s.”—Princess Diana
  49. “The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world.”—W.R. Wallace
  50. “Being a mother is the greatest blessing and the hardest challenge in all of life.”—Dr. Magdalena Battles

Final Thoughts

Single moms are remarkable women. They are to be respected and honored for all that they do. If you know a single mom, then share this article with them. Tell them “you are doing a great job as a single mom.” They need our encouragement and support.

They may be parenting alone, but it is good to let them know that there are people in their life who care for them. We can all be there for the single moms out there. Even if it is just to say, “keep up the great work, you are an amazing woman!”

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If you are a single mom, keep up the good work! You are amazing, and your kids are lucky to have you!

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Featured photo credit: Alexander Dummer via unsplash.com

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