Acknowledging feelings and emotions

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Finally, half term has arrived, it has felt like a long term. Using emotion language and acknowledging feelings and emotions has become a vital part of my work in the last year, and particularly this term. Many of the children I work with don’t have the emotional vocabulary they need, and many of them have very strong emotions and feelings that they need to express. I and the staff in schools spend a lot of time using emotion language, recognising when the child is deeply sad or angry and using those words to explain to them what is happening. This can be powerful and slowly helps children to understand what is going on in their bodies and minds. One of the new resources I bought this week are the characters from the film Inside out. I used the joy, sadness and anger ones to help talk to children about those feelings. These were a big hit with the children. I don’t think any of the 4-year-olds I worked with had seen the film, but they all loved the characters, particularly the angry one.

I have been thinking a lot over the last few days about the wide range of emotions I have experienced in the last few weeks. It has been a real mix of shared delight, joy and laughter, celebrating a friend’s birthday and another friends wedding; but also having tears of distress and great sadness with a friend over the phone, on hearing that her cancer has returned in many places. The feelings and emotions have been very raw and very powerful. This term I have also spent a lot of time with children, while they are in rages and at other times utterly distressed. I have also sat with teachers and TA’s while they have cried over the deep concern they have for the children they care for. All of these feelings and emotions are important, it can be hard sometimes to sit with them, to let them be. So often we feel the need to chase the strong feelings away, or bury them, particularly the hard ones. We often try to distract children and tell them they don’t need to be sad, but this doesn’t help us and it doesn’t help children to understand their feelings. This last year has reminded me that allowing ourselves to acknowledge the emotions we have, allowing ourselves to recognise the emotions we are experiencing is fine. As adults we need to be able to recognise and accept our own feelings and emotions to be able to support children with theirs, and we need to help children to learn that their feelings and emotions are not bad or wrong.

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