Children whose parents support them when they express feelings have stronger social skills and better friendships. Just like adults, children feel different emotions such as happiness, sadness, embarrassment, and anger. Children’s emotions get more complex as they get older. This can be hard for children to understand. You can help by talking to them about how they feel in different situations.
Happy: glad, cheerful, calm, safe, playful, proud, joyful
Sad: gloomy, unhappy, hurt, disappointed, lonely, awful
Mad: annoyed, mean, crabby
Afraid: anxious, worried, concerned, alarmed, trembly
What we know:
- Parents teach children about emotions when they talk about how they feel and show feelings at home.
- When parents show more happiness and joy, their children also show more happy feelings and have a greater understanding of emotions.
Teach your child about emotions by choosing different words to share how you feel. Try using words like “grateful” or “disappointed” instead of “happy” and “sad.”
Use movies or TV shows to start a conversation about emotions. Grab some popcorn and cuddle up to watch Inside Out for your next movie night. In this movie, the main character, Riley, feels mixed emotions for the first time. You hear what’s going on inside Riley’s brain while she’s going through big life changes – like moving to a new city. Children may relate to what Riley is feeling, helping them to understand their own and others’ emotions.
Here are a few questions that you could ask your child about the movie:
- What feelings did you have during the movie? Joy? Excitement? Sadness?
- How did Riley feel during the movie? Why do you think she felt that way?
- Can you tell me about a time that you felt angry? Or joyful?
- What helped Riley feel better? What helps you to feel better when you’re sad?
For more information, read this Parent Toolkit article on using Inside Out as a parenting opportunity.
Print this as a 1-page handout (Feeling All My Feelings, PDF).