Discovery Point Blog

February 16, 2023

Discussing Emotions with Your Child

With Valentine’s Day coming up, you may be thinking about fun crafts, desserts, and decorations you and your child can create together to celebrate the day. However, Valentine’s doesn’t just offer us the chance to make what is often a gloomy mid-February a bit brighter. It also presents a great opportunity to talk with young children about expressing their emotions.

A crucial part of child development is learning how to express and identify emotions appropriately. Children who learn to express how they’re feeling are often less susceptible to temper tantrums and have an easier time getting along with their peers. 

As children become increasingly aware of their own emotions and those of others, they’ll have greater access to effective strategies for interpersonal problem-solving and calming down when they feel overwhelmed.

How to Teach Your Children About Emotions

Adults often overlook the fact that children don’t always have the words to express their feelings, and that they need practice when it comes to dealing with their emotions. Having one-on-one discussions with your child and integrating the topic of emotions into playtime can help give children both the tools and practice they need to embark on the lifelong journey of navigating their emotions.

Ways to Discuss Emotions With Young Children

Here are some ways you can start incorporating the topic of emotions into conversations with your children:

  • Ask how they’re feeling throughout the day.
    Bring up the subject of your child’s emotions at various intervals. You can start with a simple “How are you feeling?” or help them sort through and verbalize their emotions with a statement such as “You look a little sad. Do you want to talk about it?”
  • Talk about your own feelings during the day.
    Consider putting names to your own feelings in an age-appropriate manner more often. For example, you may mention that you’re feeling happy about a family dinner later in the day or sad that a party has been canceled. Point out your body language to help your child make the connection between your facial expressions and feelings.
  • Discuss strategies for dealing with emotions.
    You likely encounter daily opportunities to help your child start learning strategies for managing their emotions and solving problems. If they look like they’re starting to get upset about something, gently suggest ways they can calm down, from taking a big breath to counting to ten. Point out that while all feelings are okay, this does not go for all behaviors. 

Learning About Feelings Through Play

Play is a great way for children to learn about feelings, as they can model different emotions and work through scenarios in a safe space. Additionally, play with others often brings up real-life scenarios in which children can start practicing the problem-solving strategies they’re learning.

Below are some of our favorite games and activities that can help teach children about emotions:

  • Singing songs. Singing is a fun way to express emotions, and you can help your child look closer at their favorite songs to examine the feelings they’re expressing. Encourage your child to “act out” these songs and mirror the emotions described in them.
  • Play feelings charades. Feelings charades is perfect for young children who are just learning how to put names to their emotions. First, have your child or a group of children write the names of emotions such as “scared,” “excited,” “surprised,” “worried,” and “happy,” on index cards, along with a drawing of a face expressing that emotion. Then, place these cards in a hat and have children select one randomly. Each child should act out the emotion written on the card until the others guess it correctly.
  • Read books and talk about the characters’ feelings. Illustrated books for children often excel at depicting characters showing their emotions. As you read out loud with your child, have them point out clues to how the characters are feeling, both in the pictures and in the text.

As you and your child enjoy all the Valentine’s Day festivities that are approaching, help them get to the “heart” of what the holiday is all about. By placing an emphasis on the importance of talking about their emotions, you can set them up for success in managing their feelings, building relationships, and navigating the ups and downs of life.