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Where did that Emotional Reaction Come From?

Updated: Aug 29, 2021

When my children were in the infant stage, I often wished they could talk. Sometimes, I just didn’t know what their cries were trying to tell me. Frazzled, I went down the checklist. No diaper change needed. They just ate, so they weren’t hungry. It wasn’t nap time. I picked them up. But still the crying continued.

The fact is that even after children learn to speak, we sometimes still don’t understand what they are trying to tell us. We have seen children throw themselves down crying, and their frazzled parents wonder where this reaction came from.

Children who can identify what they are feeling is an important first step in attaining self awareness and emotional growth. The previous blog offered ideas to teach the vocabulary of emotions so children can more accurately understand and communicate what is going on inside.

After they have learned some vocabulary, the next step in developing self awareness is to gain a deeper understanding of what is contributing to that feeling?

Get a notebook and try this:

- talk and write (with older children)

- talk and draw or cut out pictures (with younger children)

Choose an emotion from their Feelings Wheel. Start with “happy”, for example.

Ask for specifics: “What makes you happy?” With older children, you can take notes or they can write on their own notes. With younger children, they can draw pictures or cut and glue pictures from magazines. Your job is to listen and help document, not to give suggestions. They may want to come back to the same emotion several times to add and edit.

Having these interactions with your children, one emotion at a time, teaches them to identify how they are feeling and why. The better they understand their own emotions and reactions, the better they will be able to appropriately respond. As an added bonus, instead of being a frazzled parent who wonders where a reaction came from, you will have insight into what your child's emotional reactions mean. That ought to feel good.

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