Some people may think that children will pick up the way to read and express emotions by themselves; and “teaching” about them is simply unnecessary. The fact is, these skills do not always come naturally, especially for children with special educational needs (SEN). It is never too early to consciously introduce emotions to your children in your daily life.

This can help:

  • Develop effective communication – when children are able to communicate negative feelings verbally, this helps parents or caretakers to have better understanding of their children. Hence situations can be handled properly and appropriately. This can help to prevent tantrums from beginning or escalating.
  • Build positive interpersonal relationships – expressing emotions can help build positive relationships, not only with parents or caretakers, but also with peers. As mentioned, less misunderstanding occurs when children can express themselves appropriately. If a child can only communicate their needs through negative actions such as shouting or throwing a tantrum, it will be hard for him/ her to make friends with others. In addition, when children are able to recognise some simple facial expressions, like “happy” and “sad”, they may use this understanding to determine which behaviours are expected and more desirable.


What you can do:

  • Expand his/ her vocabulary of emotions try to include feeling words in daily conversations when appropriate. For example, “Eating chocolate makes me happy.” “Are you excited about going to the Ocean Park tomorrow?” When you read books, try to describe the emotions of the characters: “Look, the boy is happy and he is smiling.” “Oh dear, the girl is sad. She is crying.” You can also ask your child to copy facial expressions in front of the mirror so that they can actually see what they look like. With older children, you can ask more complex questions like “How does she feel? Why?”
  • Address your child’s need – when your child is upset, you can try to narrate his/ her feelings “I can see you are angry…did he just take your toy?” “I know you are upset and you want to play longer, but…” This way you are modelling how to express feelings. It is also a good way to show your child that you understand and respect their feelings.