Teaching Kids How To Label Their Feelings

Feelings can be confusing, especially for toddlers and kids who don't know how to vocalise what they are experiencing. Here are some strategies that you can teach your kids to understand and express their emotions.

By URLife Team
27 Jul 2023

Introducing children with their emotions will make them confident and mentally strong. Feelings are physical and emotional experiences and our body’s way of communicating how and what we are experiencing. Your 4-year old may not understand why he is called off from the park/playground and may even resist with tantrums. Kids find it difficult to vocalise what they are feeling to others. Expressing their feelings like displeasure or anger is a skill that can be taught. 


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According to a 2023 study issued in the American Psychological Association, it’s natural for toddlers and kids to not be able to anticipate why certain things don’t happen the way they want. Teaching children about feelings can be challenging due to its rather abstract nature. Describing emotions like sadness, fear, or excitement is not an easy task. Children who possess a good understanding of their emotions are less prone to resorting to temper tantrums, aggression, or defiance as a means of expressing themselves. When a child is capable of verbalising their feelings, such as saying, "I'm angry with you," they are less likely to resort to physical actions like hitting. Moreover, a child who can effectively express, "That hurts my feelings," is better equipped to peacefully resolve conflicts.

By teaching your child about their emotions, you are empowering them to become mentally resilient. When kids comprehend their emotions and possess coping skills to manage them, they develop a sense of confidence that they can handle whatever challenges life may present. This emotional intelligence lays a strong foundation for their overall well-being and adaptability as they grow and face different situations in life.

It is crucial to start teaching kids how to identify and label their emotions from a young age because their feelings significantly influence their decision-making process. 


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Ways To Teach Kids Label Their Feelings

Patience and consistency are key when teaching kids about emotions. Creating a supportive and non-judgmental environment will help them feel comfortable sharing their feelings and understanding the importance of emotional awareness. Teaching kids to label their feelings is essential for developing emotional intelligence and self-awareness. ]


Here are seven effective ways to help children identify and express their emotions:

1. Encourage your child to express/name their emotions: Guide your preschooler in learning fundamental emotion words like happy, mad, sad, and scared. For older children, introduce more intricate feeling words such as frustrated, disappointed, and nervous, as they can greatly benefit from expanding their emotional vocabulary.

2. Use pictures/emojis to help them recognise emotions: Select books that vividly describe the facial expressions of the characters throughout the story. For older students, opt for picture books that cater to both young and adult readers, featuring themes that resonate with various age groups. Read these books aloud to the students, paying close attention to the characters' facial expressions, emotions, conflicts, actions, and reactions to events and outcomes. After reading, engage the students in discussions about the emotions portrayed by the characters, and teach them the corresponding vocabulary for those emotions. 


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3. Ask them what they are experiencing:  Encourage children to connect their feelings with appropriate emotion labels to understand their behaviour better. For instance, if a student is upset because they are not getting their way, acknowledge their emotions by saying, "I can see that you are feeling frustrated right now." Avoid relying on repetitive derivatives of the word "angry," as it may be overused and limit their emotional vocabulary. This interactive approach will help students connect with the characters' feelings, enhance their emotional intelligence, and enrich their language skills. 

4. Talk about empathy: Demonstrate to kids the usage of feeling words in their everyday language. Lead by example by expressing your feelings and emotions when appropriate. For instance, say, "I feel sad that you don't want to share your toys with your brother today. I bet he feels sad too." Make it a daily practice to inquire about your child's emotions by asking, "How are you feeling today?" For younger children, you can use a simple chart with smiley faces to help them identify and discuss their emotions. 


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5. Engage in role-play: Engage students in role-playing exercises, where pairs of students act out situations that commonly occur in the classroom. For instance, one student can play the role of a bully, while the other student takes on the role of the victim. After each role-play scenario, facilitate a class discussion, allowing everyone to express their thoughts on how they might feel if they were in a similar situation.

6. Help them connect with their emotions and body language: Encourage students to recollect a past experience that evoked emotions such as happiness, sadness, anger, or any other feeling. Afterwards, have them depict the corresponding facial expression by drawing a picture. By having students draw and share their emotional expressions, you can gain valuable insights into how each individual perceives and interprets different emotions. Finally, facilitate a class activity where students share their pictures, allowing them to observe and discuss the diverse interpretations of each emotion.


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7. Ask them to use a healthy choice of words when angry: When your child is dealing with uncomfortable emotions, it is your responsibility to teach them to use a good choice of words. Show them how to say things when you’re angry, so that your child may learn how to cope with anger instead of using unparliamentary words. Say, “I am angry right now as you went to play without completing your homework”, and take a deep breath before explaining to your child why you are feeling like that. Your child will watch and learn from you how to behave next time he is experiencing something similar. 


Supporting your child's emotional development is a continuous journey that extends from childhood through the teen years. It remains crucial to maintain ongoing conversations about effectively managing emotions in a healthy manner. Embrace the numerous opportunities that arise in coming years to guide them in discovering healthier ways to cope with their feelings. By doing so, you can impart valuable life skills and promote emotional resilience in your child as they grow and face various challenges.


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Anjaneya Reddy 08 Aug 2023


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