Identifying feelings

When your children can put a name to a feeling, several good things happen:

  • A strong feeling can be overwhelming and unfamiliar. Putting a name to the feeling can reduce the anxiety caused by a strange and unfamiliar emotion. 
  • The part of the brain responsible for language is different from the part responsible for emotions. By naming a feeling, the brain has to switch gears into the language center. This can help your child to express a feeling with a more controlled and positive action.

To help them to identify their feelings, start by observing your children. Their body language and behavior will often alert you to their emotions. Then you can say things like, “It looks like you’re feeling sad/frustrated/disappointed/angry/scared.” It is important to say this in a non-judgmental, calm manner. The goal is to help children identify their feelings and learn to act on them in a way that doesn’t harm themselves or others. By the way, pleasant feelings like happiness and joy deserve notice too. During stressful times, it can be too easy to forget any momentary feelings of peace and contentment.