May is Mental Health Awareness Month! What a perfect time to teach our kids about emotions!
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One of my passions is to help others learn more about how their mental health affects their overall well-being. Our thoughts and feelings have a definite impact on our relationships and how we view ourselves. Self-knowledge and awareness of our emotions can allow us to better tune into our current life situations and issues.
Unfortunately, we are not all born with the intuitive ability to connect how our immediate thought patterns affect how we feel and react. As we grow and develop, we can learn about emotions through our life experiences. If we are lucky enough, we can have individuals in our lives who take the time to provide resources and support in developing healthy thought patterns.
Children often have built-in radars for picking up on the emotions of others. Sensitive to the their environment, kids notice when their peers, family, even strangers, have intense reactions. Sadly, children can quickly become confused because they often have neither experience nor labels to fully grasp and process what is going on emotionally within themselves, let alone others.
Why It Is Important To Help Your Kids Learn About Emotions
As a child, I was very sensitive to my environment. I easily picked up on the emotional temperatures emanating from others in a room. I remember feeling overwhelmed and scared with these uncomfortable discoveries. As a result, I was shy and quiet, drifting off into the world of books to escape any emotional roller coasters around me.
It came as no surprise to my family or myself when I decided to study psychology. I loved finally having a name and explanation for many of the reactions and symptoms that I had noticed in friends, teachers, and family members. My studies and work as a mental health therapist also helped me deal with personal issues like anxiety and depression.
One of the most satisfying aspects of working as a mental health therapist was client education. I enjoyed finding resources to share with my clients, especially children. Stories with complex (or not so complex) characters would provide an easy example that could open the door for more in-depth exploration of problems and issues.
Although I did not keep a running list of books that I used during therapy sessions (and I am still kicking myself in the butt for not doing it!), I dug up these three books that I have found particularly helpful in teaching my own kids about their emotions.
3 Amazing Books To Help Your Kids Learn About Emotions
- My Many-Colored Days: This book by Dr. Seuss is fantastic for helping younger children understand that it is okay to feel different on different days. I love how different emotions are associated with different colors-very helpful for kids to have that type of visual reference. For activities and ideas on how to extend the learning fun with My Many-Colored Days, see how we have used this book in our toddler time.
- Pete the Cat and His Magic Sunglasses: Pete the Cat has become one of our family's favorite characters. This book, by Kimberly & James Dean, has Pete learning a valuable lesson from a very wise friend. I encourage you to read this book with your children and discover the importance of how our point of view affects our thoughts and feelings.
A fun activity would be to create pipe cleaner or construction paper sunglasses. Or find a pair of your child's sunglasses to demonstrate how changing our mental outlook-the way we are approaching our environment-can have a positive affect on our day.
- The Name Jar: I selected this book by Yangsook Choi because it addresses both the struggle with anxiety and self-acceptance for kids. Also, I think it provides a vital message about cultural diversity and making new friends.
An activity to try with your kids is to make your own Name Jar. Each child could have a jar and your family could write different names on pieces of paper. Read aloud the names. Share why you selected your child's name and why it is so special.
What books and resources have you used to help your kids learn about emotions?