Communication is a key factor in any relationship at any stage of life. From communicating through play to communicating in the workplace and with a spouse, properly expressing feelings, hopes, dreams, and daily activities is an ongoing piece to living a happy and fulfilling life. More often than not, communication of feelings is the hardest form of expression for individuals. If this skill is taught beginning at an early age, communication of feelings later in life can be much more manageable and a productive part of emotional growth.
Yanique S. Chambers is a social worker and mother of three who maintains a blog entitled Kiddie Matters, and she has a post dedicated to teaching children about their feelings. Her belief is that children must first understand what feelings are before they can properly express them to others. She has nine steps in total to help children understand their feelings, and the first one to consider is to teach children about feelings through games and activities. Learning can be fun in school and extracurriculars, but it can also be fun at home.
Songs like “If You’re Happy and You Know It” and games like charades can be used to teach different emotions. In Kiddie Matters, a rendition of the aforementioned song that includes various other emotions aside from happiness can be found here http://www.kiddiematters.com/9-ways-to-teach-children-about-feelings/ and the traditional charades can be changed to require the acting out of different emotions to better aid a child in understanding the many ways they could feel. Chambers also offers links to videos in her blog that can be watched and used as visual aids of emotions.
Other than games, parents and guardians should consider the fact that children soak up their surroundings like a sponge. It is not enough to tell children that they must communicate their feelings using words rather than actions, but this same practice should be shown to them through example. By communicating with people around us in an effective and expressive way of using words, it is easy to show children how to better express their own feelings.
Reinforcing the feelings you believe a child to be experiencing is also encouraged because it further affirms that they feel things, and those things have names. For example, if a child runs into your arms and gives you a big hug when you come home, it is safe to say that child is happy and excited to see you. So, say it to them. Speaking their feelings aloud and noticing that they exist cements the feelings to the child. On the same hand, if your child says hurtful things to you when you come home from work and chastises you for being away for so long, then you should tell them how their words make you feel. If your child can understand that their words have the power to hurt people, then they are more aware of what they say and can express empathy, which is referred to as an important life skill by Chambers.
Communicating feelings is no easy task for anyone, but learning about different types of feelings and being aware of them can make talking about them with others much easier and more effective. Children are aware of emotions like happiness and sadness as early as age two, but more complex emotions are learned a little later into adolescence. By taking the time to play games and sing songs dedicated to learning about emotions with children, it is easier for them to know how to express their emotions using words rather than actions.