Kids are very aware and affected by the emotions of others. I recently heard about a study that showed that very young children can sense the differences in the emotional tone of a situation. I’m no scientist, and I see this everyday in my son. When I laugh, he laughs; when I’m sad, he’s sad; when I’m angry, he’s scared. Kids are capable of expressing and understanding a wide range of emotions way before they are able to verbalize their feelings or even know the names of their feelings. For guided play this week we practiced emotional responses or, more accurately, making faces.
We practiced happy, sad, and angry faces and I told Joel the words for each emotion. Watching him interpret my emotion and try to mimic it was really interesting. He was really good at being happy – he has the biggest smile in the world and would laugh along with me. He looked confused when I was sad and a little nervous when I was angry.
Practicing emotional responses and learning to assign the correct response to the feeling is an important skill for children to learn. We’ve all seen children who are sad and, instead of acting sad, act angry or mean instead. Children who express anger when they are really feeling sadness probably haven’t learned how to appropriately identify, display, and cope with their feelings, so this is a great exercise for kids of all ages.
With older kids you can talk about how to cope with sadness and anger. You can teach children to talk about these things and come up with healthy ways to cope with the feelings rather than displace that emotion with another behavior.
Have fun making faces!
[photos from jupiterimages.com]