Teaching Kids About Feelings

Kids who know how to express their feelings in socially appropriate ways are less likely to exhibit behavior problems. When kids have the language to say how they are feeling they are less likely to express those feelings in inappropriate ways. According to some developmental specialists, emotional coaching is the key to raising happy, resilient, and well-adjusted kids.

  • Create opportunities to talk about feelings: Discuss how various characters in books or TV shows may feel and talk about the reasons why those characters may be feeling that way. Look at pictures to help identify feelings and role play situations to help build a feelings vocabulary.
  • Help children recognize that some feelings are comfortable and others are uncomfortable but all of them are okay (even the negative ones).
  • Help children to recognize that other people have feelings too: Teaching children how to respond appropriately to another person's feelings is an important skill for building relationships and helps develop empathy. Help them recognize that not everyone feels the same way about things.
  • Plan for strong feelings: Have a quiet space for them to use when they are sad or angry. Use tools like stress balls or physical activity to help release energy in a positive way. Help them develop strategies for calming down and to recognize that feelings change and they will feel peaceful again.
  • Be a positive role model managing and expressing your own feelings "Wow I'm angry that car just pulled in front of me!" Then take some deep breaths or model another healthy coping skill to help with calming down.
  • Encourage flexible thinking. We may not be able to change a situation but we can change how we think about it which in turn can change how we feel.
  • Reinforce and praise positive efforts and behaviors "I really like the way you used your words when you told your sister you were mad at her." Use a token or a reward system to encourage using healthy coping strategies instead of becoming aggressive or shutting down.
  • Encourage children to share their feelings with someone they trust whether it be a caregiver, teacher, neighbor, or friend.


For Caregivers:

Gottman, J. (1998). Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child The Heart of Parenting

Faber, A. (2012). How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk

For Kids:

Lamia, M.C. (2010). Understanding Myself: A Kid's Guide to Intense Emotions and Strong Feelings (Ages 9 and up)

Parr, T. (2005). The Feelings Book (Ages pre-school & Kindergarten)

Huebner, D. (2007). What to Do when Your Temper Flares: A Kid's Guide to Overcoming Problems With Anger (What to Do Guides for Kids) (Ages 8 and up)

Nemiroff, M.A. (2011). Shy Spaghetti and Excited Eggs: A Kid's Menu of Feelings (Ages 5 and up)

Carlson, R. (2000). Don't Sweat the Small Stuff for Teens: Simple Ways to Keep Your Cool in Stressful Times (Don't Sweat the Small Stuff Series).


Greater Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life: www.greatergood.berkeley.edu

How to Teach Kids about Feelings:

Teaching Children to Understand and Respond to Feelings: www.sandbox-learning.com