Recognizing our own feelings, as well as others, is a valuable social emotional skill, and can help with interpreting and understanding another person's intentions. One easy way to start introducing feeling recognition is through books. One of my favorite books to achieve this is The Way I Feel by Janan Cain. The pictures are whimsically colorful and describe how a child might act out a feeling. The faces in the book are great for discussing what that child may be feeling, and what makes your child feel that way.
I believe in the act of acknowledging a child's feelings in those moments when the expressions they show are "big," or "small." Identifying feelings with words is powerful, but a feeling is more than words or how a child expresses those words, it's how they feel on the inside as well.
Helping a child recognize how their body feels when emotions bubble up is an important part of the process in feeling identification. Anyone can help a child with this by using a drawing, a life-size drawing....
After reading your favorite feelings book, have your child lay on top of a large piece of blank paper and trace their body. While gathering favorite art materials to add to the blank outline, think about areas of the body that can feel different when an emotion surfaces....your heart, your head, your stomach, etc. Help your child identify and decorate these areas of their body that may feel different, using the outline you traced.
|Butterflies in the stomach|
|Yelling or "roaring" like a tiger|
You may talk about how your heart beats really fast when you are scared, or your child might mention their stomach feels funny when describing a time they were nervous, or feel wiggly when they feel silly. I breathe faster when I get scared, I clench my fists when I'm angry, and my legs feel rubbery and weak if I'm really sad about something.
You can use the life-sized poster as a tool to talk about what behaviors are appropriate as well, usually this involves the anger emotion. Brainstorm ideas and write them down on the poster, or use pictures from magazines to label what is okay to do when your child feels angry. Instead of hitting with hands, use them to hug or hold something. The poster can be referred to later as a visual aide when trying to reinforce a child's behavior. Put the poster in a place they can reach so they can add to it whenever they want.
How does it feel knowing you can help your child take a step toward understanding themselves and others better?