Tag Archives: feelings and emotions

Recognising feelings and emotions



This week it is world mental health day on Thursday 10th October, a day when many organisations, nurseries, and schools will be focusing on promoting positive mental health and wellbeing. Raising awareness is so important, however, one day a year or one wellbeing week a year in a nursery or school is not enough to embed practice. One area that I have been thinking a lot about recently is how we enable children to have a wide emotional vocabulary and understanding. If we can help children from a young age to understand the feelings they have, to be able to interpret what is going on in their bodies, then we are setting them for a good foundation of emotional wellbeing.  

Along with this is helping children to understand we all have a wide range of emotions and that is ok, we don’t have to be happy all the time. Over the last few years I have worked with a few children who have a fixed smile on their face, at first it is easy to think they are happy, but once you spend time with them, you realise it is a smile that comes out of a place of feeling uneasy, unsure, a bit scared, and they don’t know how to express these feelings. We need to help children to understand it is ok that they are not happy all the time, they can be sad or angry or jealous or scared, these feelings are normal. The problem is when we think happiness is a state we should aim to be in all the time, this can set us up to feel like a failure. As adults we need to model and show children that we all have wide range of feelings and emotions and to be able to name them, part of this is by regular acknowledging how we feel and noticing how the children are feeling- ‘ Lily I can see you are feeling tired and a bit sad today, that’s ok, would it help to spend some time sitting quietly together and looking at a book?’ or children I am feeling a bit worried this morning, I have lost my keys, I keep looking for them, do you think you could help me find them. A rich emotional vocabulary needs to be what we constantly hear in our early year’s settings.

If we can help children to have an emotional understanding and vocabulary from a young age, we are equipping them with a tool for life. I often come across adults who have a really limited emotional vocabulary, they find it so hard to express appropriately how they feel, or they feel guilty about not always feeling happy with their life. This is an unnecessary burden to carry through life, as early years workers we can help to change this. 

I am being interviewed about emotional literacies by Kathy Brodie on her Early Years summit if you want to hear this and many fantastic interviews a link is here

There is a growing range of resources we can use to help children understand feelings and emotions and to support mental wellbeing. A few books I have written are:

Mummy’s Got Bipolar 

Can I tell you about Bipolar disorder- ( for children aged 7 plus)

Promoting Young Children’s Emotional Health and Wellbeing: A Practical Guide for Professionals and Parents

Acknowledging feelings and emotions


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.