For example, instead of saying “I’m happy we all get to spend the weekend together” try using a word like “grateful” or “thankful” or “glad.” Exposing your child to more words can help build his emotional vocabulary. Sean Slade, director of the Whole Child Initiative at the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, recommends also sharing the reasons behind your feelings. By explaining what makes you tick, you are modeling self-awareness and showing how other people’s actions can affect your moods.
Many schools and communities have opportunities for children this age to take part in acting, which builds on their self-awareness by letting them act out feelings. If your child isn’t interested in performing himself, take him to watch actors in a local play or musical, or to the movies, and talk about how the actors knew which expressions to make in order to accurately portray the character’s feelings.
For example, take a moment to point out complex feelings and ask your child why he thinks the character feels the way she does. Is the character jealous of a classmate while also feeling rejected by not being invited to her birthday party? For children who are less self-aware, you can go a step further and relate the characters to your child. Teacher Anne Harlam suggests saying, “The character reminds me of you -- people like to talk to her because she is a good listener!” or, “The character reminds me of the time when you were nervous because you didn’t have any of your old friends in your class.” Relating your child’s experiences to characters’ emotions can help your child build self-awareness. For age-appropriate book examples, see our reading list.
Promise not to read it and keep that promise. Allowing your child an outlet to describe what he’s feeling and thinking can help him verbalize his feelings. Having those emotions and thoughts written down will also help your child identify patterns and causes. If he often writes about feeling excited by an upcoming sports game or travel, he may recognize those events as triggers for his emotions. Neurologist and teacher Judy Willis recommends also providing a separate response journal where your child can write down feelings and ask questions that you respond to. Writing down thoughts may be a more comfortable way for your child to discuss feelings than actually speaking about them.