Guest Blogger

Why it’s important for children to learn how to name and claim feelings

12 Dec , 2016  

brainOur brain’s most important function is to help us adapt in order to keep us alive. Emotions play a huge part in this process. Although emotional responses can be very subjective, the initial emotion acts as an essential form of communication that alerts us to a situation so that we can decide whether or not further action is required.

Our emotions are supporting us daily in processing the world around us. However, their early subtle messages in our fast paced, highly stimulating world can get easily missed. When this is the case, the brain turns the volume up on our emotions until they are loud or obvious enough for us to stop and notice.

Have a think about the last time you felt in a bad mood or noticed you were having a difficult couple of days. The chances are your emotions were beginning to high-jack your attention as something wasn’t right and something needed to be done.

As adults, most of us are able to label what we are feeling and why when given the time to reflect. If we do stop and name what we are feeling i.e. worried about an issue at work, anxious about our child’s behaviour, sad about a recent loss, the brain sighs with relief that you have noticed and listened to what it is telling you. It hopes that you will then do something about it in order to adapt and improve the situation.

As I said earlier, most adults become skilled at doing this across their lifespan due to development maturity and life circumstances. However, that doesn’t mean we will necessarily do it, especially if we aren’t emotionally mindful! Children and young people can find it even harder and so need to be educated on this concept for them to cope with life as well as possible.

Our role as active adults is to help kids learn to recognise what they are feeling so that the volume stays low and emotions don’t present as problematic. The second part is helping them know what to do with these emotions when they have been claimed. The Blinks series of novels, for older children aged 7 plus, were produced to do just that, to help children and young people learn to name feelings and then know what to do with them when they arise.

By educating, observing, modelling and reflecting, we can give our children the best gift ever in this wonderful but at times crazy world – improved emotional stability and long-term well-being.


Big things that will help in a little way…

  • Accept emotions don’t avoid them this leads to emotional freedom rather than resistance
  • Think:

What is a child communicating?

How could you respond?

All behaviour is communication

A child who is expressing emotional behaviours is communicating that they need your help

This child is letting you know that, until his needs are met in a different way, he is going to continue to engage in the behaviour because it is all he knows how to do

  • Talk about emotions and name them so children can learn to label them.
  • Empathise with the feeling rather than try and change it, remember it is there for a reason so let’s help them understand why
  • Model emotions so that children see them part of being alive
  • Use your experiences so children see emotional feelings come and go
  • Let them know we all have different feelings at different times.

Sometimes we feel happy,

sometimes we feel sad,

sometimes we feel excited,

sometimes we feel angry,

sometimes we feel relaxed.

         “That is what makes us human beings and not robots.”

  • Pause! – Listen – Think – Understand – Help!

Andrea Chatten – Children’s Emotional & Behavioural Psychologist and Author of The Blinks Novels and supporting teacher, parent and carer handbooks.

CLICK HERE to read about Andrea’s book series ‘The Blinks’ book series that were created to help children, young people, and their families understand emotional and behavioural issues.

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