Time to Talk: Putting Words on Feelings
Creating a Environment for Children to Understand & Articulate their Feelings
As an Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP,) I work with people of all ages on their communication skills. This includes how to express emotions appropriately. As we all transition our children and ourselves to new routines, I’m thinking about the emotions that these changes trigger. I remember as a child the excitement and dread of starting a new year at school. It was always great to see friends again- especially if I hadn’t seen them all summer. But the sense of losing freedom, being on someone else’s rigid schedule, having to learn the new teacher’s style of teaching, and all the demands of acting older were kind of terrifying. I remember checking out the text books as we covered them with brown paper bags. I could never imagine how I’d learn all the hard stuff between the covers. It sure would have helped to have had someone notice my trepidation and to reassure me. Hardly the culture of the 50s!
Our memories provide a way for us as parents and grandparents to start discussions about emotions and the vocabulary of emotions with our children, explaining that we often have many feelings when things are changing (think new school year, home time to school time, new family members, divorce, moving, etc.). It’s a unique opportunity to explain about having two feelings at once which is more common than having one feeling. These conflicting feelings are called “double dip feelings,” as written about in Double-Dip Feelings: Stories to Help Children Understand Emotions by authors Cain and Patterson. This term is a great way to refer to feelings of ambivalence in future conversations with your child.
As I said, I would have liked to discuss my feelings with an understanding and supportive adult. I would have been surprised to know that many people have ambivalent feelings about life events. I thought it was just me!
So we can start by explaining that we can have two different feelings at once. Then we can tell stories about our feelings as a child. We can ask, “Did you ever have two feelings at once? When was it? Do you ever have two feelings about school?” etc. Be sure to have this discussion without time pressure. It often is a new experience for a young child to speak about feelings and it may take extra time for them to express. If they have lots of trouble identifying their feelings, you can show them photos of people’s faces with the word for the feeling and then ask if this is a feeling they are having. There are lots of apps about feelings such as:
- iTouch iLearn Feelings
- Touch and Learn Emotions
- Emotions and Feelings Autism Social Story
- Emotions from I Can Do Apps
- IntroDUCKtion to Very, Very Big Feelings
- Face—Cards C
- Emotions Flashcards from I Can Do Apps
- Avokiddo Emotions
So check in with your children during this transition time and along them the opportunity to talk about how they feel while taking in your support.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Kathy Puckett Kathy is a private practice speech-language pathologist living in Shelburne, MA and the author of our monthly speech and language column, Time to Talk. Living in Western Massachusetts since 1970, she raised two children here and has two grandsons, ages 15 and 8 years old. She has worked as an SLP with people of all ages for the last 14 years. She runs social thinking skill groups and often works with teens. As a professional artist, she has a unique and creative approach to her practice. She loves technology, neurology, gardening, orchids, and photography. She uses an iPad for therapies. She grows 500 orchids and moderates her own forum for orchid growers (Crazy Orchid Lady). Kathy is dedicated to the families of her private practice, and offers practical, creative ideas to parents. She blogs about communication at kathypuckett.com.