Generally, our emotions are not focussed on other than when the reactions to them are extreme. We are not in the habit of tuning into our emotions in a healthy way. One, really simple but effective way of helping your child (and you) become more emotionally literate is to do an emotion check-in every now and then.
With younger children, an emotion check-in could be done with a simple emotion scale with a thumbs up for feeling a positive/comfortable emotion and a thumbs down for feeling a negative/uncomfortable emotion. Grades in-between can be added with a thumb level for neither positive or negative. As your child gets a little older, a scale of faces like that pictured above could be added.
The next stage is to put words to the emotions your child is feeling. It is well documented that he process of increasing your child’s emotion vocabulary alone, improves their emotional literacy. Use the How and I feeling today? posters to help with this. To begin with you can discuss each word, describe the feeling as best as you can including physical sensations and give an example of a time when you might feel this way.
As your child’s emotional vocabulary increases, you can complete the emotion check-in by asking your child:
- Look inside your body, are you aware of any emotions?
- Where, in your body are you feeling this emotion?
- Can you work out why you are feeling this emotion?
- Is the emotion uncomfortable and if so, what can you do to help with this? (Different coping strategies. e.g. accept it and know it won’t stay around forever, talk to someone you trust, find any practical solutions to alleviate any problem causing uncomfortable emotions etc)
With time, these emotion check-ins will make uncomfortable emotions less overwhelming. If your child becomes fluent in focussing on what is going on inside of them, they are less likely to respond negatively in the heat of the moment. The focus becomes about the emotion and its cause rather than the (often subconscious and defensive) reaction to the emotion. This will also be a skill for life (that many of us have not been taught to do).