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Exploring Feelings with Your Children

With all the suicide going on today with kids Emotions can be big and scary to young children. They do not have any coping skills or life experience to draw on to put things in perspective. The caretakers in children's lives have a responsibility to explore children's feelings and teach them how to get a handle on them.

Being able to deal appropriately with one's emotions is key to success in school, relationships, and life in general. Here are some ideas on how to explore the world of feelings with your children.

Music

Music is an emotional experience, whether playing or listening. Try playing different songs and ask your children what kind of emotion the music seems to be expressing. Using whatever instrument is available - piano, recorder, drums, harmonica, etc. - ask your child to play a song that represents a certain emotion. Make it a game - write down different emotions on slips of paper and let your child draw one at a time out of a hat.

Art

Putting your feelings onto paper or into clay can be very therapeutic. Encourage your child to tell you about his or her artwork - why pointed shapes? Why red or why green? You can ask your child to express a certain feeling with paints or crayons, or ask him or her to choose a feeling and illustrate it. Another artistic exercise is to have your children draw different facial expressions.

Role Playing

Sometimes, it's easier to express yourself through another character - it feels safer. Putting on a play can be great fun; it won't feel like emotional education! As you discuss the role, you can discuss the feelings the character is meant to portray, and how they can do that.

Build Vocabulary

Give your young child the words to describe what he or she is feeling. After all, your child can't talk about feelings if he or she doesn't know what they are called! If your child hears you openly discussing your feelings, this will help build his or her emotional vocabulary.
Very young children will need help in naming their feelings - it can actually help calm a child down when his or her feelings are explained. Feelings are much more manageable when they have names.


These pretty pieces of jewelry have been around since the 1970s and maybe before. As the different mood colors come up on the ring, talk about them. You don't need to be serious or heavy-handed; just casually talk about things like why the mood ring has a particular color for a particular feeling ("Does black seem like an angry color to you?"). You could discuss a time when your child felt a certain feeling and how you handled it.

Reading Books

Most children's books involve some kind of emotional experience among the characters. As you read books together, talk about how the characters feel, why, and how the illustrator portrayed those emotions in the illustrations. Your child will then be able to relate to the character - and how the character handled his or her feelings - when emotional situations come up.

Your child can write his or her own stories, too.
Be willing to learn better ways to handle your kids' feelings. As you become more open to discussing emotions, your children will end up pointing out (perhaps inadvertently) some ways you've handled their emotional moments that did not help. Listen to your kids and, together, work toward handling big feelings effectively.

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