Building a Feeling-Words Vocabulary

I don’t know about you, but our family is still trying to make the transition to the long school days. And with that transition come the inevitable tears and BIG emotions.

Something that has helped my kids deal with these emotions is building a “Feeling-Words Vocabulary”*. When our kids can name their emotions, they can access the rational part of their brain and begin to manage those emotions. (This is the Name It to Tame It strategy taught in Brainstorm by Dr. Dan Siegel**).

The other day one of my kids got splashed with water and was soaked big-time (not thinking about what might happen if you’re standing right next to the pool…) Thus began an after-school meltdown.

Trying to show understanding of my child’s feelings, I asked, “You’re feeling hurt?” (This is a simple adaptation of the You-Feel formula taught in Positive Discipline for Teenagers***)

My child yelled, “No! I’m feeling annoyed!!”

Immediately after saying that, the meltdown was over!

I hadn’t even guessed the emotion correctly, but it prompted my child to recognize their feelings and overcome them. Now, this doesn’t always happen so magically, but developing a Feeling-Words Vocabulary is definitely helping my kids to better understand their emotions and how to manage them.

To help your child learn some of the most important feeling words, feel free to print out my “I feel…” Chart.

Your younger kids might enjoy playing Charades or a guessing game so they can practice how each emotion looks and feels. Throughout the day you might ask them to point to how they’re feeling. Soon it will become part of your everyday vocabulary and will be an effective parenting tool for those after-school meltdowns!

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*Nelsen, Jane, and Lynn Lott. Positive Discipline for Teenagers: Empowering Your Teens and Yourself through Kind and Firm Parenting. Harmony Books, 2012, p. 89.

**Siegel, Daniel J. Brainstorm. the Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain. Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, 2015, pp. 60-61.

***Nelsen & Lott, p. 98.