Show and Tell? No, Please Tell and Not Show!
Our kids are so good at showing us what they are feeling by yelling, hurting themselves, others, or property – or even by running away (just to name a few). If only we could get more telling! Verbally expressing their emotions would make it much easier for us to hear, but also help them navigate the world in a safer way. So how do we build this “feeling language?” Surprisingly, it can be fun! Below are a few games and books that can help your child build on their feelings vocabulary, and you just might get the added benefiting of connecting with them.
Feelings charades: write down feelings on separate slips of paper, and then have one person at a time choose a feeling; they have to act out this feeling without speaking. A fun twist: act out the feeling as someone else in the family (ex: pretend to be dad when he’s happy)
Check ins: when they get home or at dinner time, ask what’s one thing that made your child happy and one thing that made them sad, mad, worried, etc. (Pick a more difficult feeling each day.)
Matching or Go-Fish: you can make your own feelings cards, or purchase them to play matching or go-fish – when someone gets a pair, they give an example of when they felt that way!
Board games: add “special rules” to the games you already play. For example with Uno, you can add a category to each color, such as when you play a green card, then you share something that makes you happy. You can add these rules to most games. Get creative!
Books: they are many great books specifically about feelings, but you can also use books you already have! For younger kids, use picture books to ask about how a character might be feeling based on their facial expression or other body language. You can also add on that and ask about why the character might be feeling this way. For older kids, you can use the books they are reading to start your own mini book club and discuss their feelings.
Movies/Music/TV: similar to books, try to add in discussions about feelings with these mediums, as well. You can ask about how a song makes your child feel, or ask about how they think the person who wrote it feels
The more that you talk about feelings, the safer your child will feel bringing them up on their own. And hopefully their emotional expression will become more “telling” than “showing”.