What are feelings and how do we handle them? Children don’t come to us understanding what their emotions are or how they should handle them, especially the more difficult emotions. So how do we teach our students to identify and regulate their emotions?
Feelings and Emotions
What are feelings?
First, we need to teach our students what are feelings and how to identify them. We want to go over the vocabulary for the different emotions. Second, we want to teach students how to identify the emotions in themselves and others. Showing pictures of faces or having students make the faces for the different emotions is a great way to help children learn how to identify emotions in others.
We also need to teach students what the different emotions feel like so they can identify them in themselves. There are great books like The Color Monster, The Feelings Book, In My Heart, and Today I Feel Silly are great books for understanding how the different emotions make us feel. Mary’s Having All the Feels is another great book to learn about how all emotions are important, we can’t just be happy forever and not have other emotions!
When you see children getting upset or frustrated, you should mention what you notice. For example, “I see you are clenching your fist and you are yelling. You sound frustrated. You can say, ‘I feel frustrated’” Encourage them to identify their emotions and verbalize how they are feeling. Children can’t learn to identify emotions after just a few read-alouds. It is done over time and is especially learned through real-life moments of feeling different emotions.
Easy and hard feelings
Once children learn what are feelings it is important to learn that all emotions are ok, it’s what we do with them that matters. There is no such thing as a bad emotion. Instead, there are easy feelings and there are hard feelings. Hard feelings are ones that need a strategy to help. Hard feelings are sad, angry, frustrated, lonely, etc. Easy feelings are emotions that don’t need a strategy. They are emotions like happy and excited. We want students to know that everyone feels sad and angry sometimes. It’s not bad to feel angry. But we need to handle our hard feelings safely and respectfully.
After students learn about easy and hard feelings, you should start teaching students how to regulate emotions. This is not an easy, one-time lesson. Regulating emotions should be constantly talked about, modeled, and practiced. Children need to learn different deep breathing strategies when they are calm. When children are escalated their brain can’t learn a new strategy . Instead, we need to teach these breathing strategies when they are calm so they can practice them and then over time they learn to use them when they need them.
My favorite deep breathing strategy is Five-Finger Breathing where you trace the 5 fingers of one hand and as you go up, you breathe in, and as you go down, you breathe out. Every year I see students start to do the five-finger breathing on their own, and it’s those moments that remind me why I became a teacher and why I stay a teacher.
In addition to taking deep breaths, children should learn that they can try other strategies for hard feelings, like coloring, doing a puzzle, asking for help, taking a walk, etc. Decide what can be done in your classroom or home and then teach the students how to use this strategy. I let my students use the control spot, or calming corner, and use the glitter jar to take deep breaths. Just having this go-to spot helps them to calm down. Whatever strategies you do teach them to use, you should give them many opportunities to practice them when they aren’t needed. This helps the children be ready to use them when they are needed.
You can check out great read-alouds for regulating emotions here.
What are feelings and how do we handle them? In order to teach students to regulate their emotions, they first need to learn to identify their emotions before they can be open to learning strategies to regulate them. Once they are ready to learn strategies to regulate emotions, they need to learn strategies to regulate their emotions. Students need to learn these strategies when they are calm and able to learn new information. They should have lots of opportunities to practice these strategies so they are ready to use them the next time they have a hard feeling.
Social Emotional Learning BUNDLE
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