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.”


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.


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.


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.


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


[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 July 22, 2021

20 Healthy and Tasty Family Meals Ideas to Try This Week

20 Healthy and Tasty Family Meals Ideas to Try This Week

It’s 5 p.m., and you’re exhausted. The kids are hungry, but no one knows what they want to eat for dinner. With very little energy, you force yourself into the kitchen and look through every cabinet, hoping for a spark of inspiration. Eventually, you toss a few ingredients together and hope for the best. It won’t win any prizes and falls short of what you consider “healthy,” but it fills everyone’s stomachs.

Feeding a family can be stressful, even tiresome. It’s hard to find the energy and creativity needed to cook healthy but simple family meals. It’s easy to fall into the “anything goes” mentality. When you’ve got a busy lifestyle, meals become more about survival and less about nutrition.

Here are 20 quick and healthy—but tasty—recipes followed by tips on making these family meals more nutritious. These recipes can help you have a healthy family meal on the table in an hour or less. Remember, swap ingredients out if someone in your family has dietary restrictions or if you avoid certain foods.

1. Mini Meatloaves With Green Beans and Potatoes

    These miniature meatloaves come together quickly and cook faster, too. You can have a family favorite on the table, paired with seasoned potatoes and fresh green beans, in just 40 minutes.

    Get the recipe here.

    2. One-Pan Chicken Parmesan Pasta

      This classic will taste like you spent hours cooking, but the preparation and clean-up couldn’t be quicker. One-pot cooking makes this dish practical, while fresh basil, parmesan, and garlic add a special touch.

      To try this recipe, go here.

      3. Sheet-Pan Chicken Fajitas

        Skip the restaurant and make fajitas at home. The ingredients go on one sheet pan, meaning you won’t spend all night cleaning. Zesty chicken, bell peppers, and warm tortillas can be on the table in 40 minutes. Add sour cream, salsa, guacamole, lettuce, diced tomato, and any other favorite toppings.

        Check out the recipe here.

        4. Philly Cheese Steak Stuffed Peppers

          Lose the carbs but keep the cheesesteak flavors with this quick family meal. Kids will love the pepper “bowls,” and you’ll love giving them a meal full of veggies and protein to keep them healthy.


          Try it tonight. Get the recipe here.

          5. Chipotle Chicken Quinoa Burrito Bowl

            This veggie-packed meal adds an extra boost by using the superfood quinoa instead of rice. Flavorful yet simple, this meal makes an excellent packable lunch or dinner for your whole family.

            Find the recipe here.

            6. Spinach and Chicken Skillet With Lemon and Parmesan

              The complex flavors of lemon and parmesan come together nicely in this gourmet-like dish, but you don’t have to exert the effort or spend as much as a gourmet meal.

              Get the recipe for this dish here.

              7. Oven-Fried Fish and Chips

                Fish and chips can also sometimes be healthy as evident in this oven-fried version. You won’t miss the calories with this favorite family meal.

                You can find the recipe here.

                8. Pineapple-Teriyaki Chicken

                  Tangy pineapple and sweet teriyaki will have everyone coming back for seconds. Frozen vegetables make this simple family dish even easier to make and enjoy.

                  Find the recipe here.

                  9. Mozzarella, Basil, and Zucchini Frittata


                    This egg dish is usually served for breakfast, but a frittata can make a fantastic dinner, too. High in protein, packed with zucchini, and delicious, there’s no reason to wait until morning.

                    Try it tonight. Get the recipe here.

                    10. Chicken and Sweet Potato Grill Packets

                      Skip the pans and throw everything into foil with this fun family recipe. Kids will love loading ingredients into their pack, and you’ll love its versatility and simplicity.

                      The recipe for this meal can be found here.

                      11. Chicken and Spanish “Rice”

                        Cauliflower takes the place of rice in this low-carb family meal, but it’s so flavorful and filling, no one will miss it.

                        Find the recipe here.

                        12. Honey Chicken Stir Fry

                          This honey chicken stir fry is the healthier version of a restaurant favorite that can be served up quicker than you can order it.

                          Find the recipe here.

                          13. Chicken Skewers With Tzatziki

                            Greek chicken and tzatziki sauce will have you yearning for the Mediterranean, but you can make this recipe at home for your family to enjoy.

                            This easy recipe can be found here.


                            14. Healthy Walking Tacos

                              Traditional walking tacos are a party favorite, but they’re not usually healthy. However, this recipe keeps it fun while making it more nutritious.

                              Find out how to make it here.

                              15. Slow-Cooker Chicken Noodle Soup

                                This classic comfort meal can be ready when you walk in the door. All you have to do is add noodles, and it’s ready to serve.

                                The recipe can be found here.

                                16. Cheesy Chicken and Rice Casserole

                                  This usually takes a little over an hour, but the preparation time is only 30 minutes. You’ll love how easy it is, and the cheesy rice is sure to please.

                                  Find the recipe here.

                                  17. Crockpot Rotisserie-Style Chicken

                                    Skip the checkout line and have a rotisserie-style chicken ready at home. A staple in many quick meals, you might find this family meal recipe among your most-used.

                                    Get the recipe for this flavorful chicken here.

                                    18. Santa Monica Street Tacos

                                      Named after a simple taco found on the streets of California, you’ll be surprised that something with only a few ingredients can be so flavorful. Your kids will surely enjoy them.


                                      Find the recipe here.

                                      19. Pizza Pasta Salad

                                        Enjoy the flavor of pizza without the hassle of making a crust. Use a fun pasta shape to make this even more appealing to your family, especially kids.

                                        Try it tonight. Get the recipe here.

                                        20. Slow-Cooker Lasagna Soup

                                          Everyone loves lasagna, but it can be time-consuming and messy to make. However, this soup version has the taste you want but with the ease of a crockpot.

                                          Get the recipe here.

                                          Bonus: 3 Simple Ways to Make Meals Healthier

                                          Eating healthy doesn’t have to take a lot of money, time, or thought. Any improvements are a big step in the right direction.

                                          Here are three easy ways you can make meals healthier for your family.

                                          1. Lose the Sugar

                                          Are you looking to improve your health? Cut processed sugars from your diet—the more, the better, and that includes artificial sweeteners.[1] Why? Studies show that sugar increases the risks for weight gain, heart disease, acne, type-2 diabetes, depression, cancer, fatty liver disease, cellular aging, and low energy levels.[2]

                                          2. Avoid Highly Processed Foods

                                          Many processed foods are fine to eat. Even fresh fruit and vegetables go through some processing to stay fresh longer. However, highly processed foods have added salt, sweeteners, saturated fats, preservatives, and artificial colors. These types of food have been linked to heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure.[3]

                                          3. Replace Simple Carbs for Complex Carbs

                                          Lowering daily carbs can do wonders for your health. Studies show that low-carb diets lead to lower insulin levels, lower bad cholesterol levels, visceral fat loss, weight loss, reduced appetite, and can be therapeutic for many brain disorders.[4]

                                          When eating carbs, choose complex carbs over simple carbs. Simple carbs, such as white flour, rice, and degermed cornmeal, lack nutrients and spike blood sugar levels. Complex carbs, such as sweet potato, brown rice, and oats, are usually more nutritious and aren’t digested as quickly, giving more sustained energy and less of an insulin spike.[5]

                                          Enjoy Family Meals With Less Stress!

                                          Dinner can be enjoyable again now that you’re armed with simple and nutritious recipes for your family. These healthy and tasty family meal recipes can help you feel even better about what you serve. Best of all, you’ll have the extra time and energy you saved from cooking and spend more time with your family.


                                          More Healthy Eating Tips

                                          Featured photo credit: Jimmy Dean via


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