Putting voice to their emotions

Emotions are normal. Sometimes we are sad. Sometimes we are mad. Sometimes we are confused or irritated or scared. At times we are worried, delighted, upset, overwhelmed or loving. One of the lessons we need to learn in life is how to recognize and talk about our emotions.


Children who don’t have words for emotions will act out their emotions. This can create major problems for the child and much confusion for the parent or teacher.


Help your child slowly learn the words for emotions. Start with the easiest like happy and sad. Read and talk about being sad, upset, lonesome, happy, excited, loved and scared. Let her see the differences in these words.


When you see her experiencing these emotions, give them words. Say “I can see you are very upset” or “Your happy face tells me you like your new puppy” or “I know you are worried about your new school.”
You are helping her learn what these emotions mean for her. Research shows that the child who doesn’t know or understand or cannot express her emotions may misbehave, feel isolated or become frustrated.

Let her see that you also have emotions. Talk about them with her so she learns as you model for her.


Sometimes that may mean you also apologize when your own emotions become overwhelming and you may become angry or frustrated. When she sees that happen, she understands herself even better. Once again, you are modeling what is appropriate for her.


There are so many words for your child to learn to express herself. But these special emotional words may need some extra help to understand. It is tougher to learn about being sad or excited than it is to learn colors or numbers.


Help your child with this important lesson in life. Help her identify and use words for emotions. Remember that great song about emotions. Sing it for her and it will give her a few more ways to express herself.


“If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands
If you’re mad and you know it stomp your feet
If you’re surprised and you know it, raise your eyebrows
If you’re sad and you know it wipe your eyes
If you’re tired and you know it stretch and yawn
If you’re confused and you know it turn around.”
Not only does this have great words, but music alone helps people be happy.

Cynthia Martin is the founder of the First Teacher program and director of Parenting Matters Foundation. The foundation publishes newsletters for parents, caregivers and grandparents. Reach Martin at or at 681-2250.


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