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Children Expressing Emotions

Updated: Apr 13, 2021

Children experience a large range of emotions in just the same way adults do. However, unlike adults, due to underdeveloped communication skills, children often lack the ability to talk through or describe these emotions, which can result in them releasing them in very physical and often inappropriate ways. If children can be taught, and learn to communicate their feelings more effectively then their emotional needs can be met. A child who understands and can deal with their feelings might be more able to identify their own emotions and express them appropriately and even learn to change their reactions to better deal with certain situations for example learning ways to calm themselves down when they become angry.

If children have more emotional awareness it can also benefit their relationships and friendships with others, as they are more likely to be able to empathise with the feelings of others.

Some children may find this sort of emotional competence very difficult, particularly if they have had traumatic experiences in their life but a person who is not in touch with their own emotions and able to express them appropriately may find that as a result they become depressed, anxious or very angry.

What can we do in the classroom to support children to become more emotionally competent?...

Increasing emotional vocabulary

Teach children vocabulary and meaning for as many different emotion words as possible and the differences between similar ones e.g. annoyed, furious, and grumpy. Play different games in which children name different emotions and give examples of times when they or others they know have felt this way. We also have a range of printables available about emotions here in the PSHE section of the website that will help to increase emotional vocabulary.

Recognising emotions – Feelings Journal:

On various occasions through the day, stop and think about how you are feeling about what is happening. Think about physical clues your body may be giving you e.g. flushed cheeks, enlarged pupils, laughter, shaking, crying, fast heart rate etc.

Think also about how your emotions have affected your behaviour, the adult can help and prompt with this where necessary. Consider whether the behaviour is an appropriate one and whether it needs some adjustment.

Treat yourself well

Reflect on how you like to be treated by other people. Compare this with how you treat yourself – would your life be different if you treated yourself in the way you would like others to treat you? Plan ways in which you could be kind to yourself – allow yourself time to relax, think more of your strengths rather than worrying about or judging yourself for weaknesses and practice and learn new skills. Through learning to treat yourself better you are more likely to be treated better by others as well.

What is hidden inside me?

Children to take and release a deep breath. Then using an outline of a person and crayons they should shade in the parts they think feel cold, hot, in pain, sad, happy, feel as if there is an animal inside, part they don’t like, favourite part, weak, strong etc. Allow children to choose what colours they want to use for each different part.

Children’s Books

Reading books with children is a great way for them to recognise different emotions within the characters in the book and for them to relate events in the books to their own lives. There are so many amazing children’s book out there, here is just a small sample of some of my favourites:

Sodapop Head By Julia Cook – This book is about feeling angry and having ‘explosions’. As well as giving real examples that an angry child can relate to, it also gives practical advice of how to deal with anger.

Silly Billy by Anthony Browne – all about a boy who worry’s a lot and finds using ‘worry dolls’ a way to ease this.

The Bad-Tempered Ladybird by Eric Carle – A story about a ladybird in a bad mood and looking to fight with someone but eventually he learns that kindness and manners are more important.

Theo’s Mood by MaryAnn Cocca-leffler – This is a lovely book for exploring how you can feel more than one emotion simultaneously.

Have You Filled a Bucket Today? By Carol McCloud – A lovely book about how our words and actions have an affect on how others feel and in turn their actions affect how we feel.

Wilma Jean the Worry Machine By Julia Cook – As with Sodapop head by the same author this book gives really great practical strategies for dealing with these difficult emotions

In My Heart: A Book of Feelings by Jo Witek – In this story a little girl explains how she feels when she is experiencing different emotions. A good book for identifying different emotions and learning vocabulary.

Little Tree by Loren Long – This is a book all about the fear of change and transitions. The little tree is afraid to change his leaves for the new season but eventually realises he is being left behind while the other trees are enjoying themselves.

Spoon, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal – This book covers the feelings of jealousy and insecurity and about comparing ourselves to others. This book encourages children to recognize their own good qualities and to celebrate the differences between people.

Too Shy for Show and Tell by Beth Bracken – This is a book about a little boy who is so quiet and shy that no one knows him very well. he feels very frightened to do show and tell in front of the class but when he does it he learns that it isn’t as scary as he thought it would be.

The Invisible Boy by Patrice Barton - All about a boy who feels he is invisible to other children in his class. A lovely book about the feelings of loneliness.

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