Expert Articles

Cultivating Children’s Emotional Expression Skills

Author: Scarlett Choi
Psychological Counsellor

Emotional management is an important issue for parents in the parenting process. The direction of teaching children emotional management includes identifying different emotions, understanding and expressing emotions, self-regulating emotions, and recognizing others’ emotions.

Helping Young Children Identify Emotions

Emotions are not good or bad; they are simply positive or negative. Emotions are the most natural reactions. For young children, it is crucial to identify different emotions, understand them, and express them. Identifying different emotions means that children have the ability to recognize their current emotions and accurately label them. Understanding and expressing emotions means that children can comprehend their emotions at the moment and express them in appropriate ways. These are the basic steps to cultivate children with high emotional intelligence.

Three Key Elements of Expression

Due to young children’s limited language skills and insufficient emotional vocabulary, they may struggle to regulate their emotions. Here are the three key elements to cultivating young children’s emotional expression skills:

  1. Familiarize them with emotional vocabulary: When young children experience various emotions, they may not fully understand the complex changes in their emotions or express their feelings clearly. Parents can guide children to express their inner feelings or help children with limited vocabulary to express themselves. For example, parents can say, “Mom, I see that you’re turning red and getting ‘angry’! Do you feel angry?” This helps children understand their own inner feelings, increases their emotional vocabulary, and provides relief through understanding and acceptance.
  2. Utilize children’s picture books: Since emotions can be abstract and difficult to grasp, one of the best methods to teach children aged 0–3 to identify different emotions is by using children’s picture books. Parents can tell stories with different emotional themes and discuss the feelings in the story with their children, listening, understanding, and accepting their children’s expressions.
  3. Use visual tools: Visual tools can enhance young children’s ability to recognize emotions. For example, displaying emotion posters or emotion spectrums in prominent places in the hallway or room can help children identify the most representative spectrum that matches their current mood when they notice their emotions. Using emotion spectrum stickers or magnets, parents can invite children to put stickers or magnets representing their daily moods on a schedule chart. This allows parents to understand their children’s current emotions, and children can find joy in creating collages. Additionally, making an emotion clock with the child is a great parent-child activity. By pasting or drawing different emotion face stickers on the clock face, the hour hand can be rotated, allowing children to actively express their different moods. Utilizing visual tools helps present emotions concretely, enhancing children’s ability to recognize and express emotions.
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Cultivating Children's Emotional Expression Skills