our everyday life

How to Teach Children to Put Feelings Into Words

by Susan Revermann, studioD

A child is not born with the knowledge or skill set to effectively express complex feelings with words -- he must be taught to become aware of and recognize these emotions. Teaching your child how to put his feelings into words can help him effectively cope with uncomfortable, frustrating or painful situations. Although this lesson takes time and patience, it’s worth it when you see your child dealing with a problem in a constructive way instead of fighting, hitting or name-calling.

Model the behavior you want your child to demonstrate. If you want him to learn to take deep breaths and talk calmly about the way he feels, you should do the same when you get upset or frustrated. Your child will learn a great deal when you demonstrate self-control and set a good example to follow.

Teach your child to ACT when he gets mad or upset, suggests the American Academy of Pediatrics’ website HealthyChildren.org. "A" stands for "acknowledge," directing your child to acknowledge his feelings and notice how his body changes when he experiences that feeling. “C” stands for "calm down," instructing your child to breathe deeply, count to 10, walk away from the situation or participate in a constructive, enjoyable activity. “T” stands for "think and talk." Help your child think about ways to solve the issue. Talking to someone can help the child feel better instead of yelling or fighting.

Be an active listener for your child. Focus on his verbal message and the feelings behind it. Listen attentively to your child when he is talking to you about how he feels and then respond with feeling words. For instance, when you see your child crossing his arms and sitting by himself with a scowl, you can approach him by saying “I see that you’re upset. Do you want to talk about it?” Let him talk and respond by reflecting or repeating what you hear. Help lead him through some problem-solving techniques without taking over.

Hang a feeling chart up in your child’s bedroom. If she has a hard time using words, this can be a stepping stone in the right direction. When you want your child to identify her feelings, have her walk up to the chart, point to the picture that demonstrates how she feels and say “I feel …"

Items you will need
  •  Feeling chart

About the Author

Susan Revermann is a professional writer with educational and professional experience in psychology, research and teaching. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Washington in psychology, focused on research, motivational behavior and statistics. Revermann also has a background in art, crafts, green living, outdoor activities and overall fitness, balance and well-being.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/Stockbyte/Getty Images