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4 Questions to Help Your Child Understand Their Emotions


angry looking middle school girl sits on a couch with an adult in the foreground

As many parents know, simply asking, “How are you?”, is hardly ever helpful. Kids often don’t have words for their feelings or feel awkward expressing them. That means you might have to get creative to open up a conversation about feelings. Remove the “how are you question” from your vocabulary and try one of these instead. 


What color are your feelings right now?


A color is often an easier concept for elementary schoolers to grasp than big complex emotions like anger, sadness, disappointment, or embarrassment. 


Kids start learning about colors at a young age and start to associate colors with emotions between four and five years old, making this question suitable for kids ages four and up. 


You can take this exercise one step farther by asking your child to draw a picture of how they’re feeling right now, using crayons or markers.


Follow-up with another question: why did you choose that color?


Where do you feel that in your body?


Connecting feelings to a physical sensation can help your middle-school child figure out what they’re feeling in high-emotion moments. 


For example, when they’re anxious, they may feel a tightness in their chest and may notice that their shoulders are slightly raised and tight. But when they’re sad, they may notice a heaviness in their stomach, and a slumping of their shoulders. 


This technique can also help them feel more grounded and may even begin to calm them down, by focusing on a tangible sensation.


What song would best describe this emotion?


Listening to and enjoying music may be the only common ground in all human experience. From babies who fall asleep to their favorite lullaby, to Alzheimer patients who still remember their favorite songs. Music is a common denominator that evokes emotion. 


As a parent, you can use this to your advantage by asking teens to choose a song that resonates with them. Not only will you get a better idea of their emotional state, you’re also practicing empathy skills by encouraging them to relate to how the band or artist is feeling. 


Would you like to look at the wheel of emotions?


The wheel of emotions is a great way to help kids understand themselves a little deeper. This chart was developed by psychologist Robert Plutchik and is designed with eight core emotions: 


  1. Grief

  2. Loathing

  3. Terror

  4. Vigilance

  5. Rage

  6. Admiration

  7. Amusement

  8. Ecstasy


The closer you move to the middle of the wheel, the stronger the feeling. The further out, the milder the emotion. 


An emotions wheel gives your child the ability to point to exactly what they’re feeling when they may be too overcome to get the words out. It also means they don’t have to come up with the words on their own and can simply choose from the words listed on the wheel. As they become more emotionally literate, they will no longer need the wheel to look at, but can still rely on the concept to guide them. 


Understanding feelings helps kids thrive


Understanding their own emotions is one of the first steps to building emotional intelligence. At LeadYouth, we know that emotional intelligence is a foundational skill that all leaders must have in order to thrive. We built our emotional intelligence course to help your child stand out in a competitive job market. Emotional intelligence and leadership can never be replaced by AI.


Set your child up for a lifetime of success. Sign them up for a LeadYouth membership today. 


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