Stephanie Fredericka, LCSW
Identifying emotions is an important aspect of a child's development of emotional awareness. We can help our children shape their emotional intelligence through support and nurturing of their expression of feelings.
In my work with children, I like to use images of characters displaying various emotions. My goal is to help the children identify with the feelings the characters are displaying, and then discuss what invokes them to feel similar emotions. In doing so, this helps children begin to associate emotions with various situations they may be faced with. It will equip them with the necessary vocabulary to describe their feelings, when placed in similar circumstances. This reduces frustration, which in turn can help reduce the number of times tantrums and outbursts occur.
Parents can, of course, help their children identify their emotions at home. Ask your child how he feels throughout the course of the day, and encourage him to describe his feelings. It is important not only to focus on negative feelings, but also emotions that make them happy! You can ask your child to express the way she is feeling by writing or drawing a picture. By engaging her and conducting feeling “check-ins,” she'll soon be able to name their own emotions. Parents may also help their children further practice identifying emotions by pointing out moods of TV characters, story book characters or even the mood/atmosphere of certain public scenarios.
Building emotional intelligence in a child cultivates a supportive, nurturing foundation for open communication within the family unit. It is healthy practice and helpful to come together as a family, to process an argument and allow each family member to identify how they felt during and after the disagreement. This allows each family member to take ownership of their part, thus fostering an environment where individual feelings are validated and heard. It's also helpful to set ground rules when having these family meetings, such as: one speaker at a time, no “blaming games,” and allowing each person the courtesy to speak freely. This reinforces positive communication skills in children.
The ability to name an emotion is a powerful tool for a child; building emotion intelligence in children is empowering. It gives children the necessary skill sets to become strong and confident young adults as they encounter the challenges of everyday life.