How To Teach Your Child About Emotions

heart by Anna Tyzack
(Hint: it starts with you). 

The greatest gift we can give our children is to teach them and show them that ALL their emotions are normal, and that they are all okay.

It is normal to have feelings.

It is good to talk about feelings.

It is important to share feelings.

Everyone expresses their feelings in their own special way.

Imagine how our relationships would be different if we’d grown up receiving the message:

“Off course you feel that way, you are human.”

Like many people I know, I grew up thinking there were three emotions: happy, angry and sad.

Angry wasn’t acceptable, can you calm down please or go to your room until you’ve settled down?

Sad was met with a tissue. (Please wipe the tears away and wash your face).

The goal was always to always be HAPPY!

Unpleasant feelings are a part of living a valuable life but it’s what we do with those difficult feelings and how we learn to regulate them that is key to living with all the ups and downs of our emotional lives.

One thing that has helped me become more emotionally literate has been to develop a more nuanced emotional vocabulary to describe the way I’m actually feeling.

This has helped me to express my emotions in a way that allows me to better understand myself and it helps others have a better understanding of where I’m coming from too!

Many of the young people I work with in my counselling role have a very limited vocabulary when it comes to naming their feelings. They tell me they are either stressed or depressed with very little ability to name any feelings in between.

When we label an emotion, we make space between ourselves and our experience, this allows us to choose how to respond to challenges.

As author, clinical professor of psychiatry and mindfulness expert Dr Dan Siegel says— “Name it to tame it.”

Developing a varied emotional vocabulary is a gift we can pass on to our children.

The emotional spectrum is vast.

(Can you guess how many emotions a human can experience, around 34,000.) Google the Emotion Wheel or read this article for inspiration.

As grown-ups we have a responsibility to lead the way and show our little people how we name, regulate and manage our own emotions, (often easier said than done, especially when tired!) so they can learn how to do the same.

So, be brave and model out loud how you name and regulate your feelings.

For example,

“It’s been a busy day, I’m feeling exhausted and a bit drained, think it’s time for a walk in the fresh air. Anyone coming?”

“I am feeling so disappointed we can’t go and see Granny this weekend, it’s making me feel really down and disheartened, think we need to make a plan to go and see her for a long weekend in the holidays”

Next time I’ll be writing about how to help your child manage their big feelings.

Lulu x

  • Lulu works as a counsellor working with individuals, couples and families. She also works as an education consultant specialising in Social and Emotional Learning.  Lulu has recently been giving talks in schools for parents on the topic of Emotional Wellbeing. Please get in touch via her website if you would like to know more.
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