Understanding and Naming Feelings and Emotions

Like adults, kids experience complex feelings. They get frustrated, excited, nervous, sad, jealous, frightened, worried, angry, and embarrassed. Without the chance to go to school and participate in their normal activities, they are missing out on the usual outlets for working through feelings.

That displacement – from work, from friends, family, and activities – means we are all experiencing emotions that are bigger and more intense than usual, and missing out on places, people, and routines that gave us the chance to work through feelings.

Kids often don’t have words for feeling. Instead they communicate feelings in other ways – by acting them out in physical, inappropriate, or problematic ways.

We learn how to express feelings through social interactions and relationships — especially with the most important people in our lives – for kids, those important people are parents and caregivers.

As parents, we have a really important role to play to coach our children to name and understand their feelings. In a society that shuns feelings, or where expressing feelings can be unsafe, we can affirm them and support our children to express and channel them appropriately. In this way, we are modeling empathy and compassion for our own and others’ emotions. We are teaching our kids to deal with their feelings in constructive ways.

Here are some ideas you can try on to support the social emotional development of your child.


7 Ideas for Learning about Feelings, from Sound Discipline – https://belongpartners.org/sd-blog/7-ideas/

Feelings, the first foreign language I learned as a parent, from Sproutable – https://www.besproutable.com/post/feelings-the-first-foreign-language-i-learned-as-a-parent

Understanding Your Emotions for Teens, from Nemours Health Foundation, https://kidshealth.org/en/teens/understand-emotions.html

Emotion Coaching: One of the Most Important Parenting Practices in the History of the Universe, from Christine Carter of the Greater Good Science Center – https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/emotion_coaching_one_of_the_most_important_parenting_practices_in_the_histo

Helping Kids Identify and Express Feelings, from Kids Help Line, https://kidshelpline.com.au/parents/issues/helping-kids-identify-and-express-feelings

The Science Behind Why Naming Our Feelings Makes Us Feel Better https://www.huffpost.com/entry/the-science-behind-why-na_b_7174164

Name it to Tame it, with LaVar Burton from Reading Rainbow,  https://youtu.be/c1HbdEu8g-0

Name it to Tame it, from Dr. Dan Siegel – https://youtu.be/ZcDLzppD4Jc

“Name that Emotion” with Murray, from Sesame Street – https://youtu.be/ZxfJicfyCdg

The Whole Brain Child by Daniel Siegel

Llama Llama Mad at Mama by Anna Dewdney

The Way I Feel by Janan Cain

How are you Peeling? By Saxton Frayman

Sometimes I’m Bombaloo by Rachel Vail


Make a Feelings Chart with your children’s faces, or other faces, and use it to reflect on how feelings change throughout the day.  This video from Sound Discipline shows how to make and use a feelings chart.  https://youtu.be/PKO8BJAWSsE 

How to Make a Feeling Wheel with Kids, from Sproutable – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tONNO3tleyE

Feeling Faces Game, from Sesame Street in Communities – https://sesamestreetincommunities.org/activities/feeling-faces/