Teaching Feelings to Kids: 60+ Tips, Tricks, and Activities

What are ten basic feelings?

Expand your child’s emotional vocabulary with these ten words. Teach your class these words to help them describe their feelings and pinpoint how their classmates, friends, or family may also be feeling:

  1. sad
  2. happy
  3. scared
  4. excited
  5. worried
  6. shy
  7. calm
  8. embarrassed
  9. angry
  10. courageous

Of course, this isn’t where a student’s range of emotions starts and stops. There are so many more feelings kids can experience based on different situations.

Your children may also feel:

  1. energetic
  2. jealous
  3. hopeful
  4. hurt
  5. motivated
  6. lonely
  7. grateful
  8. guilty
  9. frustrated
  10. relaxed

Eight key steps to teach feelings to kids

  1. Talk about (and model) your feelings.

One of the best ways to teach emotions to your students and encourage them to express how they feel is to set a good example yourself. Label your feelings as well as you can and speak them out loud. By modeling healthy emotional expression, your children will feel validated and accept that going through different emotions is a normal experience. Kids are always watching and listening, so whether through words or facial expressions, do your best to model what you want to see from them.

  1. Meeting your kids at eye level.

Meeting your children’s eye level suggests a high level of trust and care and sends an important message of safety. Eye contact is extremely powerful, but some students may find it challenging to respond with the same eye contact as you, especially when emotions are high, so don’t expect them to reciprocate immediately.

  1. Allow your children to feel.

You must ensure your children know they can feel whatever emotions they feel. But beware: if your student behaves unacceptably, set appropriate boundaries respectfully. All feelings are okay, but not all behaviors are okay.

  1. Offer assurance and supportive statements to your students.

Empathize with your class and help young kids to learn to label their emotions by supporting them with statements like, “It looks like you are hurt or are feeling upset.” When you inform your students that you’re there for them by saying, “I’ll always listen to you and help you,” they will most likely be more confident in asking you for help in times of need or distress.

  1. Help untangle emotions and co-regulate your responses to different situations.

Help your children untangle their emotions by encouraging them to label their feelings. You can show them how to do this in response to a situation that sparks complex feelings. There may be a scenario where you feel impassioned to react in a certain way, so when you can regulate a good response to a complicated situation, you become a positive source of inspiration for your kids. For example, yelling and raising your voice are negative reactions that can escalate a situation. It may cause children in your presence to scream back or cry. These heightened emotions cause a negative back-and-forth cycle, which benefits nobody. It’s always important to think, control, and help regulate your feelings before responding to a scenario.

  1. Listen to your children.

Listen to your child’s perspective when they come to terms with it, and start recognizing their feelings. You can do this by not interrupting or intervening when they speak and being nonjudgmental. A great indicator you’re listening is asking your kids questions after they have finished talking. This shows that you care and are interested in knowing more about their feelings. Even if they can’t answer your questions immediately, your actions demonstrate that you paid attention to what they said.

  1. Make a game plan and problem-solve.

Problem-solving is a useful technique that allows children to slow down and reflect on their actions. For example, you can calm your student down and improve their ability to make better decisions by asking them:

“What could you do instead?”

“How can I help you next time?”

“Is there another way to think about it?”

It’s also important to create opportunities for you and your kids to develop alternative solutions to expressing emotions instead of getting frustrated, throwing items, and having violent outbursts. For example, you can start the conversation by using your behavior as an example of responding to situations so they implement healthy ways to communicate their feelings.

  1. Move on.

Moving on is necessary to find closure after experiencing tough emotions. While it’s important to process feelings, you must ensure that your kids don’t get consumed by them. After discussing and working through how they feel, you can resume conversations on different, light-hearted topics. Maybe watch a movie? Read stories? Or send them back to play with their peers (depending on where you are) to enable them to bounce back and continue with their day teaching feelings.

Benefits of teaching children about feelings

Educating your kids about their feelings and how to manage them is essential for improving their physical and mental wellbeing. And when your students are in a positive mindset, they’ll be more open, focused, and engaged in learning.

Here are two more benefits of teaching feelings:

To reduce anxiety – Feelings like jealousy, anger, sadness, and frustration can be very intense, especially for kids. As difficult as they may be, they belong to the human experience. You can help children navigate these emotions by encouraging open and honest discussions that directly embrace your child’s feelings.

To develop their emotional intelligence – Teaching feelings builds students’ self-awareness, empathy, and self-regulation. Coping strategies are a sure way to increase your child’s emotional intelligence.

When should you start teaching kids about feelings?

There is no specific age or time when we should teach feelings to children. Emotions are a part of us from birth, whether we understand them or not. While it’s often overwhelming to talk to kids about heavier and more complex emotions, starting conversations about how they generally feel early on in life would be a great idea. If your child is sad about having to go to school, you can help work through their fears through open discussions, art, singing, and other creative methods and activities. When you start these conversations from a young age, they will become more confident and used to express how they feel about you and others.

More strategies for teaching feelings 

  1. Talk about feelings in the media – during a TV series or movie you’re watching.
  2. Playfully practice identifying feelings – through role play or reading stories.
  3. Bond with your kids by sharing feelings and memories from your younger days.
  4. Use toys to act out different emotions.
  5. Praise and affirm your children when they use emotional language and express themselves.
  6. Teach healthy emotional expression, such as mindfulness.
Choose your Reaction!