Being able to identify an emotion is not a skill we are born with- we have to learn it! Emotional awareness is an incredibly important skill and a helpful part of the emotion regulation process. Identifying emotions doesn’t always start with naming- in fact it often doesn’t- and doesn’t have to end with giving it a name either. For younger children, visuals and other sensory clues are helpful for identification. Use the following tools to help you child begin to identify their emotions.
Color & Shape. Identifying emotions by the color and shape they have gives kids an opportunity to express what they are feeling outside the constraints of limited vocabulary. Give your child a blank piece of paper and crayons and ask them to draw what they feel. If they draw themselves, you might prompt them with what if the emotion was sitting next to you? What would it look like then? If you are in a situation in which drawing isn’t possible or appropriate, you can ask your child to verbalize their image. Imagine your emotion was in a story or show. What would its character look like? What color is it? What shape does it have? How big is it? What does it feel like if you touch it?
Internal Weather. This compares emotions to various weather patterns. You might ask what is the weather like inside *insert child’s name* right now? Have them either draw the weather or ask them to point to the picture that best matches their internal weather (see Emotion Identification Helper).
Emoticons. Similar to the weather pictures, emoticons offer kids a visual representation of what they might be feeling. Ask your child to point to the face that matches what they feel like. Then ask them what they think a person with that face might be feeling. Are you feeling this also?