How Are You Feeling This Morning?

So I recently came across an article about the importance of teaching children to properly label their emotions. I was online looking for ways to help my ESL kids learn better ways to express themselves in English. Every morning I ask my students how they are feeling and post an image next to their names on this board I made for them. For example, I’ll ask one of them, “How are you feeling this morning?” And they will answer, “Happy” or “Hungry” and I’ll attach the “happy” or “hungry” face next to their names. The problem is, the kids are beginning to do group-think. Instead of expressing their own  emotions, they wait till the more popular student declares how she’s feeling and then claim to feel the same way. Argh! This is so frustrating as an ESL teacher. The point of me doing this every morning is to get them to stretch their vocabulary so they can properly express themselves, not follow the crowd. But it’s occurred to me that the idea of expressing a vast range of emotions is not highly encouraged where I’m locate. As Michelle Murray said in her article Children Need Words to Put On Their Emotions, “Mixed messages make for confused children. Denial of emotion is a dangerous practice because it denies reality and suppresses feelings that must find expression elsewhere.” I feel that’s what I’m combating every day in my classroom. The children are taught to deny how their feelings and follow suit with the dominant person in their life. Yet, I want these children to not only learn a range of words to express who they feel but to actually mean it. I think overall, parents and teachers MUST be on the same page so kids can really make that connection. I’m pretty sure this disconnect is not only where I am in the world, but is in the US as well. Nevertheless, we need to be on the same page: children should express themselves in a healthy way and done so often. Box of Feelings in RESILIENT Children, I think will be a great lesson plan to combat the group-think. It’s going to take some time to teach my kids all of the different words for emotions, but I think it will help them understand that variety is good and that my classroom is a safe place to express it. I also think that my kids’ parents will be impressed with their knowledge of so many English words that it could be a win-win. They will be happy that their children know so many words, that perhaps it will be okay to use them versus suppressing them. We shall see. If time permits, I’ll capture the lesson  on video when I teach it and share with you so you can see how it works out.

How to Help Your Kids Deal with Emotions

It’s often challenging to parents to respond to their children when they show extreme emotions of anger, frustration or fear.  Some parents immediately just tell their child to “Stop crying” or “Calm down and don’t scream.”  That is dismissing, disregarding and invalidating how your child feels.

Instead of shutting your children’s emotions down parents have an important role in helping children to understand and deal with their emotions.   Walking your child through an emotional outburst can be an effective way for your child to learn to have greater control of those emotions.

So, what exactly do you do when your child is having a “meltdown?”

First, ask your child what they are feeling right now. What emotion? If they don’t express themselves then you might suggest certain emotions they may be experiencing. “Are you angry?” “Are you sad?”  Children usually calm down if they feel they are being heard and that you’re not trying to fix them.

Then you might ask why they are feeling that way.  This often helps the child understand what leads to this emotion.

Then you might say, “How could you handle this situation?” “Do you need my help?”

Children can be taught that emotions are a natural part of being human and that everybody experiences some kinds of emotions.  Helping your children to deal with their emotions empowers them to better understand themselves and the situations around them.  It also helps them to regulate their emotions and to soothe themselves.

As parents, don’t give up if this process doesn’t work as smoothly as you would like.  Stick with it and continue practicing and eventually you will be pleasantly surprised at the progress.