Age: 3-5 (appropriate for 2s in an abbreviated way and with more help from the adult, who will do more narrating of what the child is expressing since the child will be communicating emotional states non-verbally)
Applicable To: Groups or Individuals
CAPPD Concepts: Attuned
What It Is:Ask children to complete the sentence describing how they feel. If they are too young to answer verbally, they can draw their answer or you can hold up drawings for them to identify. Draw pictures of feeling faces with children and talk about different times that make them feel this way. When you notice a child experiencing or hear a child expressing a strong emotion, comment to them: “I wonder if you’re feeling _________ because of ____________.” This technique is called reflective listening Help children identify ways to deal with specific emotions. For example, if they are feeling overwhelmed or stressed, perhaps some time in a quiet, calm area will help soothe them. If they are feeling sad because they miss people, maybe they will feel better if they talk to you about those people. Help each child learn what works for him.
Why It Helps: These exercises help children become more attuned to their own emotions, which is a first step toward regulating their emotions. They also teach them to express their emotions, which is the first step toward healthy communication. Once children recognize what their emotions are, then they can learn to self-regulate. Research shows that children experience a calming benefit from simply identifying their emotions (Bath, p. 7). Recent studies have also indicated that being able to label our negative feelings actually helps us feel better. Reflective listening is also important because it teaches children that adults care about their feelings; this type of communication builds trust, and models healthy relationships.