We’ve all got a lot of big feelings right now, what with *gestures around.* It can be challenging for even the most self-aware among us to pinpoint how we’re feeling from moment to moment. It’s even harder for our kids, who are still learning to put words to all their big feelings.
It’s always important for parents and kids to talk about their feelings, and for parents to model healthy stress management, but even more so when so much feels overwhelming. Part of talking about feelings is first developing the vocabulary needed to have the conversation, that’s why Matthew Utley writes for Fatherly that we should create a “feelings chart” for our kids:
A feelings chart is really any tool that helps a child expand their emotional vocabulary. It helps kids reflect on their feelings and describe them with more precision. “It can be a list of feeling words or a picture chart of words and expressions — whatever the child finds easier to use,” says Ellen O’Donnell, Ph.D, pediatric psychologist at MassGeneral for Children in Boston, instructor at Harvard Medical School, and co-author of the book Bless This Mess: A Modern Guide to Faith and Parenting in a Chaotic World. “It’s a fairly intuitive idea, as anyone who has sent an emoji in a text, rather than a prolonged description of their emotions, can attest to.”
Photo: Michelle Woo Little kids have a lot of big feelings, ones that can change rapidly and dramatically from the time it takes you say “Would you like a strawberry jam sandwich?” to “Oh dear, we only have the ends of the bread loaf left.” But they can’t always express...Read more
For my feelings chart, I opted to print out this chart that I remember from my own childhood. But there are many other (more modern) options, if that’s your style. Emoji charts are especially helpful because they may already be recognisable to little kids.
After I printed my feelings chart, I framed it — an idea I borrowed from this post on the Kids Activities Blog. Once it’s framed, kids (and adults — we have feelings, too) can use dry erase markers to identify their feelings. Encourage them to pick more than one feeling. We can be both frustrated and overwhelmed at the same time, after all.
The dry erase marker easily wipes off with a tissue or other soft cloth, and then it’s ready for the next time you need a Family Feelings Status Update.
Set a regular time or two throughout the day to talk about feelings, such as during breakfast, after school, or at bedtime. But also be flexible and prepared to pull it out if you notice your child is struggling to work through an emotion and could use a little support.