THIS ARTICLE INCLUDES 6 FREE PRINTABLES
There are many ways to help a child build their emotional intelligence skills. One way that can be implemented, even at an early age, is teaching children to label their feelings. While kids can easily feel their feelings, it can take time and practice for them to understand what the feeling is named, how it feels, and how it impacts their behavior. A child may not understand that an intense urge to yell is the feeling of anger, or the pit in their stomach is the feeling of anxiety. They may need help realizing that a sudden burst of energy is caused by excitement, or that warm feeling in their chest is feeling proud. Adding words to a child's emotional vocabulary can help them better understand what is happening in their minds and bodies. This is an element of self-awareness, which is one of the five parts of emotional intelligence. We've compiled a list to help you build your child's emotional vocabulary.
In each of the feelings, we've also included how you may identify the feelings in your child or help them to identify the feeling in themselves. With three simple steps, you can help your child better understand what's happening within them.
1. Say what you observe out loud. This first step helps your child understand what is happening in their body, and it also shows that you are present with them and get them.
2. Take a guess and label what your child may be feeling. In this step you are validating the feeling and giving it a name. There's a chance that you may guess wrong and your child will correct you. It's a good thing if they are able to share the feeling in words.
3. Recognize that the feeling or reaction is normal. This last step shares with your child that the emotion they are experiencing is normal. It's healthy to feel an emotion rather than trying to mask it or run from it.
It goes something like this, "You are talking really fast. I'm guessing you are excited. It is really exciting when grandpa comes to visit." Or, "Your mouth is frowning and your hands are clenched. It looks to me that you are pretty angry. It's normal to be angry when someone takes a toy out of our hand." Or, "Your hands are trembling. I can see that you are worried. I get worried sometimes when I visit the dentist, too."
Positive Feeling Words
Like most people, kids enjoy feelings that make them feel good. Who wouldn't choose comfortable feelings over uncomfortable feelings, or feelings that cause a smile rather than tears? Feeling good inside can add happiness and health to a person's life. And, the great news is that we don't have to feel good all of the time to reap these benefits. Anger, sadness, and frustration are bound to happen in a child's life, in addition to happiness, pride, and excitement. Plus, there's a wide range of other feelings that your child will go through. Children can develop grit and resilience by working through frustration and challenges to complete their goals, and experience the payoff of feeling accomplished and worthy.
Happy Feeling Words
The word "happy" means to feel joyful and pleased. Your child may be happy to see you when you pick them up from school, to eat their favorite meal, or to get to stay up a few minutes late before bedtime. A child may show their happiness by smiling, having a relaxed body stance, and speaking in an upbeat manner. Other words related to "happy" are:
Excited Feeling Words
The word "excited" means to feel enthusiastic and eager. Your child may be excited to go on vacation, celebrate a holiday, or to play with a friend they care about. A child may have a rapid heartbeat or breath, flushed cheeks, rapid speech or body movements, and feel a tingling in their skin. Other words related to "excited" are:
- fired up
Surprised Feeling Words
The word "surprised" means to have a reaction to something happening unexpectedly. Your child may be surprised a family member is visiting from a faraway place, they get a gift they weren't expecting, or they have a surprise party unveiled. A child may raise their eyebrows, open their mouth, have widened eyes, jump backwards, yell, or gasp. Other words related to "surprised" are:
- blown away
Proud Feeling Words
The word "proud" means to feel satisfaction from one's own achievements, characteristics, or material items, or to feel that way about someone else's achievements, characteristics, or material items. Your child may feel proud that they make the honor roll, use their manners, or you give them a thumbs up when they try something new. A child may show a large smile, have a warm feeling in their upper body, or speak words that say they are proud like, "Wow, I can't believe I did it!" Other words related to "proud" are:
Negative Feeling Words
Some feelings feel uncomfortable and negative inside. These can be called "big feelings" and may require a good amount of skill-building to work through them. Though a feeling feels bad, it doesn't mean the feeling itself is actually bad. Feelings aren't good or bad; they are just feelings. And, feelings are meant to be felt, though a child may want to escape them or push them away. These types of feelings are a sign to stop and use a coping skill to build emotional regulation.
Sad Feeling Words
The word "sad" means to feel unhappy or down. Your child may feel sad because a big change happened in their life, their favorite shirt got ruined, or they were left out of a game. A child may cry, withdrawal from others, become quieter, or show a dampened mood. Other words related to "sad" are:
Worried Feeling Words
The word "worried" means to feel concerned, uneasy, or anxious. Your child may worry about an upcoming doctor's appointment, passing a spelling test, or not being picked up at time they expected. A child may become fidgety or tense, develop a headache or stomachache, not eat properly, or become irritable or angry. Other words related to "worried" are:
- on edge
Scared Feeling Words
The word "scared" means to feel afraid or in fear or something or someone. Your child may feel scared of a dark room, the sound of a storm outside a window, or listening to a TV show that's not age appropriate. A child may show widened eyes, have a rapid heartbeat or breath, experience tensed muscles, tremble, or attempt to either fight or flee the situation. Other words related to "scared" are:
Angry Feeling Words
The word "angry" means to feel mad or enraged. Your child may feel angry when they have to go to bed early, can't have a special snack after dinner, or a friend doesn't share a toy with them. A child may use a strong body stance, clench their fists, yell, turn red in the face, or become more aggressive. Other words related to "angry" are:
Free Feelings Printables for Kids
One of the freebies provided is a letter size poster to help kids try out and utilize various coping skills when they need them. Place the freebie in a frame or use tape to attach it to your child's bedroom wall. This is also a great resource for completing some of the other feelings freebie worksheets.