Homeschooling can be tough. Especially when children are missing their friends and are having a hard time understanding what is happening. Emotions can and will start to run at an all time high. So what can we do?
A strategy to assist children with expressing themselves is teaching them metacognition. Metacognition is a fancy word for awareness of one’s thoughts and feelings. Allowing children to access vocabulary to tell you what they are feeling and thinking can help avoid disruptions, melt downs, arguments, and fights in the home.
So where to start?
It is important to teach very simple, primary emotions first (i.e., anger), and from there, build on secondary emotions (i.e., frustration). Here is a perfect example of primary and secondary emotions:
If you have seen the Disney’s Pixar movie Inside Out, you’ll know there is a perfect ensemble of characters that represent the majority of primary emotions. If you haven’t seen the movie, I highly recommend obtaining it as a resource for early years classrooms. Teaching children about emotions and metacognition at an earlier age results in higher self-regulation skills throughout the life span, which in turn equals less classroom disruptions, easier classroom management, a safe and welcoming space for children, and perhaps most importantly, a well-rounded, emotionally aware individual. The same benefits are applicable to the home setting.
Let’s introduce the Inside Out emotions:
As you can see, the chart lists primary emotions in bold, and then secondary emotions underneath. The main focus when beginning to teach emotions is to teach the primary emotions first. Once your child displays proficiency at identifying the primary emotions in themself, and then applies them to another, you can move on to secondary emotions. For now, we will focus on primary.
A good method for teaching these emotions is introducing the characters via video. Thankfully, YouTube has done a wonderful compilation of each character or “emotion.”
Let’s meet Anger:
And finally, meet Joy:
After a thorough explanation and run through of these emotions, ask your child to do a simple exercise. At the top of it, write the sentence, “I feel joy when….” and have your child draw or write down what they think. In addition, ask them to show you the emotion with their face. Here is a great print out if your child is able to write well and brainstorm:
After getting acquainted with these emotions, have your child identify how they are feeling each day. You can do this by printing out the chart below and having your child point to or circle an emotion. It is okay if they choose more than one! The important thing is to ask why they are feeling that particular emotion.
It is important to remember to validate your child’s response when they share their feelings with you. As adults, we know that it can be scary to be vulnerable when sharing difficult emotions. Be sure to say things such as, “I hear you,” “I understand,” and, “It’s okay to be sad.” You can also use sympathetic and empathetic statements like, “It must be difficult to feel that way,” “I feel that way too when.” You can also use this as a platform for teaching your child ways to make themselves feel better. Ask them, “What can you do to feel better?” For instance, if a child identifies that they are feeling fearful, you can help them brainstorm a list of what makes them not feel afraid. This could be things like a warm hug, reassurance from a parent, or checking in with a friend. In this way, you also teach your child coping skills so that they can begin to regulate their own emotions.
Inside Out teaches us that every emotion, no matter how uncomfortable, is important to us. All of our emotions are relevant, including sadness. On days when your child is experiencing difficult emotions, let them know that these emotions are IMPORTANT, but that they are only TEMPORARY!