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How to Talk About Feelings with Young Grandchildren

Expressing your feelings is complicated even for adults. So imagine how hard it is for your young grandchildren when their mastery of language, let alone their feelings, is still a work in progress.

But you can help them talk about their feelings with my favorite book on the subject, The Feelings Book by Todd Parr. I gave this book to my 6-year old granddaughter, Sophia when she was 4-years old and having tantrums every time she got upset. Now it’s her favorite book and she reads it to me on our FaceTime calls. It’s given her the language to express her feelings when she’s angry or sad and she no longer has tantrums.

It’s hard to teach kids about feelings because they’re so abstract. How do you describe the feeling of being sad, scared, or excited to a young child? You do it gradually and as early as possible since their feelings affect every choice they make.

Children who understand their emotions and can express them are less likely to have temper tantrums or show aggression. A child who can say “That hurts my feelings” or I’m mad at you,” will be better equipped to resolve conflict peacefully instead of hitting or whining.

Teaching your grandchild about her emotions will help her become mentally strong and have the coping skills to handle more of life’s challenges.

The vibrant illustrations and funny faces in The Feelings Book are appealing to young children. The text is simple and covers a broad range of feelings that include: silly, cranky, scared, lonely, bored, and sad.

When Sophia and I read it together, we act out the feelings with facial expressions and talk about a time when we experienced these feelings so they become more concrete and associated with a specific time or person.

Name the Feelings

Another great way to help your grandchild learn about feelings is to discuss how various characters in books or TV shows may feel. Pause to ask, “How do you think he feels right now?” Then, discuss the various feelings the character may be experiencing and the reasons why.

Talking about other people’s feelings also teaches empathy. Young children think the world revolves around them so it can be an eye-opening experience for them to learn that other people have feelings too. If your child knows that pushing their friend to the ground may make their friend mad and sad, they will be less likely to do it.

One of the best ways to teach feelings is to be a model yourself. When you talk to your grandchild, look for opportunities to express your own feelings. For example, you could say: “I felt so sad today when I looked outside and saw it was raining and I wouldn’t be able to take a walk. But then I felt happy when I saw a rainbow in the sky.”

You can make a game out of it and ask your grandchild how many different feelings he had today and what caused the feelings. You can show your grandchild a simple chart with smiley faces to help him pick a feeling and then discuss that feeling together. Talk about the types of things that influence your grandchild’s feelings.

The best time to teach a young child about her feelings is when she’s having them. Acknowledge her by saying, “I can tell you’re really sad right now. Can you tell me what’s making you feel sad?” It’s also important to give your grandchild tools to help her deal with her feelings by saying, “sometimes when I feel sad, a hug makes me feel better. Would you like a hug right now?”

Understanding our feelings is a skill we need throughout life. You can empower your grandchild by teaching and reinforcing how to identify and understand feelings whenever you’re together.

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