Learning to understand, name and express feelings is important for self-regulation. Developing this skill helps children feel better about themselves, form healthy relationships, and navigate life’s challenges with more resiliency.
When we name our feelings, we’re accessing the thinking part of the brain. This act of labeling the feeling gives us that little bit of space from the feeling itself, which helps calm down the emotional center of the brain. This integration in the brain helps us makes sense of our experiences so that we can respond rather than react. Dan Siegel explains this integration, Name it to Tame it, in this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZcDLzppD4Jc.
Plus, learning about feelings can be fun! Here are a few ideas for helping children explore their feelings.
- Make a Feelings chart with your children’s faces, or other faces, and use it to reflect on how feelings change throughout the day. This video from Sound Discipline shows how to make and use a feelings chart. https://youtu.be/PKO8BJAWSsE
- Discuss the feelings of book, tv and movie characters. How does the character feel? How do their feelings change in the story? How would you feel if you were in their situation?
- Start a Feelings Word Collection—feelings words you encounter in the world. Read the book The Word Collector (found here sounddiscipline.org/books) or listen to Barack and Michelle Obama read the book: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U-hTKWCX7hc
- Personify feelings. In the movie Inside Out, the protagonist’s feelings are also characters—joy, sadness, anger, disgust and fear. It can be helpful to imagine what your feelings would look like and sound like. You can draw them or act them out.
- Body outline. A body outline can be helpful for Identifying how and where we feel feelings in our bodies. Children can pick colors to represent feelings, and color in the body where they feel them. There are many available online for free.
- “I” messages game. Put up a few feeling words around a room in your house or yard. The adult offers some “I message” sentences with the feeling left blank. “I feel ______________ when someone gives me a compliment.” “I feel ________ about riding a roller coaster.” “I feel_______ when someone asks me to play.” Children can run (or walk or skip or dance) to the feeling they’d feel in that situation. Then, have the children add their own sentences. You might find that you have to add more feelings words as you add situations.
- Music and Movement. Explore different kinds of music. What feeling does the music remind you of? How does that feeling move? Move to the music.