How to Teach Children to Identify Their Emotions

Before parents try to teach their children to identify their emotions, they must learn to recognize their own. Read on to learn more!
How to Teach Children to Identify Their Emotions

Last update: 05 February, 2020

Parents tend to believe that children’s basic needs are only food, clothing, shelter, and education. Also, although they know that love and affection are important, they may assume that only showing them is enough. But parents tend to forget something essential: teaching their children to identify their emotions.

We live in a society that’s becoming increasingly demanding, aggressive, and competitive. Therefore, parents are raising their children as small adults; they want them to be more prepared, more educated, and those who always win.

In a scenario where emotions can be interpreted as a weakness, teaching your children to identify their emotions is a great tool that will help you during their upbringing.

“From the very beginning, the child is trained to think in this way: always in terms of comparison, of success, and of failure. It’s a weeding-out system; the weaker get discouraged and fall out; a system designed to produce a few winners who are always in competition with each other.”

– Doris Lessing –

The importance of teaching children to identify their emotions

In a system based on achievement, it’s essential for people to know themselves. This way, they’ll know what their strengths and weaknesses are, they’ll be able to work based on them, and they’ll achieve their goals without “dying in the process.”

Knowing yourself implies being able to identify your feelings and emotions. An indispensable aspect of acquiring good emotional competence is being able to assimilate, accept, and manage your own emotions. For this purpose, you need to:

  • Know and be familiar with emotional vocabulary.
  • Be able to put a name to what you’re feeling at a particular time.
  • Know how to express your emotions the right way.
  • Recognize how others feel, based on how they express themselves.
  • Identify what’s affecting your emotional state, and how.
How to Teach Children to Identify Their Emotions

Children’s emotional development

From birth, emotions surround you. They integrate into your life, helping you shape your personality. For this, it’s essential to interact with adults. The child will imitate the emotional manifestations of the people they interact with throughout their lives.

The first social role model a baby has is their family. However, this model changes as the baby grows. When they start going to school, new emotional role models (teachers, peers, etc.) appear. In adolescence, their role models will be their groups of friends.

Due to this change of role models, children can quickly vary the way they express their emotional states. Thus, inconsistency and ambivalence may occur, which can hinder the learning process.

Emotional language and recognition

From ages six to twelve, language integrates as a means of communication and interaction with others. As children’s cognitive ability develops, their social bonds increase. Therefore, culture conditions emotional control.

At the end of this stage, teens acquire the necessary social knowledge to evaluate their personal variables, forming their self-concept and self-esteem. Therefore, it’s important to:

  • Promote the use of language to be able to express and understand emotions.
  • Express affection and love through language.
  • Create a rich, warm, and supportive environment.

“Art is a manifestation of emotion, and emotion speaks a language that all may understand.”

– Somerset Maugham –

How to help children identify their emotions

Children learn through imitation. Therefore, to teach children to identify their emotions, firstly, it’s essential to know how to detect your own. Remember that:

  • People acquire emotional maturity through experience. Therefore, it’s important for adults to teach children through practice.
  • Teach children to express their emotions in a way appropriate to the context. Thus, you shouldn’t repress their emotions, only help them control them.
  • Don’t categorize emotions as good or bad. All of them are necessary and have an adaptive function.
How to Teach Children to Identify Their Emotions
  • Don’t make children believe they should always be happy and that sadness is bad. This will affect their expression and can lead to the formation of a bad self-image when they feel sad or angry.
  • Although emotions can be difficult to control, every situation is an opportunity to continue learning to manage them.
  • Emotions aren’t voluntary acts. They don’t disappear simply because you don’t want to feel them. Often, the only way they disappear is to let them out.
  • Not everyone feels the same in identical situations. In this regard, not everyone reacts the same way in the same situations at different times in their lives.
  • Thus, you should help your child detect the real reason why they feel a certain way. For example, ask them what thoughts come to mind when they’re sad, what they feel in their body, and what makes them feel better.
  • Everyone has the right to feel and express themselves emotionally. Thus, it’s important for your child to feel heard and understood when needed.
  • Help them learn by playing.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Asociación española contra el cáncer. (2011). La emociones, comprenderlas para vivir mejor. Ed: Ministerio de Sanidad y política social.
  • BISQUERRA, R. (2012). ¿Cómo educar las emociones? La inteligencia emocional en la infancia y adolescencia. Ed: Faros.
  • LANTIERI, L. (2008). Inteligencia emocional infantil y juvenil. Madrid. Aguilar.
  • RENOM PLANA, A. (2007). Educación emocional, programa para educación primaria. Ed: Wolters Kluber.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.