Feelings, Feelings, Everywhere Feelings

March 29, 2017

By Guest Contributor and Wise Family Clinician – Kasey Cain, Resident in Counseling 

In order to navigate the world around us we must understand our feelings. Yet, feelings are extremely complicated. We can have multiple feelings all at the same time. They are fluid throughout the day and depend on individual perceptions. Feelings are also dependent on an individual’s ability to regulate his or her emotions.


Even as adults we sometimes have difficulty making sense of our feelings. If this is challenging for adults, think about what it must be like for children – especially those with social communication challenges. But don’t worry! Opportunities to learn about feelings are all around us. Use these strategies to encourage your child (and yourself) to explore your “feelings, feelings, everywhere feelings”:

  • Expand Feelings Vocabulary: Most preschool age children can identify the “main” four feelings of happy, mad, sad, and scared. However, within these feelings there are many variations. Is someone mad? Or are they frustrated? Furious? To get to a more accurate understanding of feelings, children need a broader range of feelings words to choose from. You can support developing your child’s emotional vocabulary by:
    • Read! Read! Read! In The Wall Street Journal’s Saturday essay The Need To Read, author Will Schwalbe wrote “Reading books remains one of the best ways to engage with the world, become a better person and understand life’s questions, big and small.” Read alouds are also the number one way to gain new feelings words and experiences. There are many books specifically written with a focus on talking about feelings. Some examples of these include:

How Are You Peeling? Foods With Moods by Saxton Ferymann and Joost Elffers

Move Your Mood by Brenda S. Miles and Colleen A. Patterson

The Way I Feel by Janan Cain

Today I Feel Silly & Other Moods That Make My Day by Jamie Lee Curtis

However, any book can be used. Discussing what is happening in a story and how the characters are feeling as a result is a safe way for a child to identify feelings. If your child is naming the feelings as mad, sad, happy, or scared, be sure to offer alternate feelings words such as angry, lonely, joyful, or nervous. I often use Mo Willem’s Knuffle Bunny or Elephant and Piggie books with children. These books are rich in illustrations that reflect an array of emotions.

  • Provide opportunities to talk about feelings: Feelings faces charts and images abound. Just by clicking on your phone you have a library of emoji feelings faces. You can also print one out from a quick google search and use this to prompt conversations with your child. Ask “how are you feeling?” or read the feelings words and provide examples of when you have experienced that feeling. Remember that feelings are individualized. The same experience can result in different feelings for individuals. For example, riding a roller coaster may be exciting for one person, fun for another, and terrifying for someone else.
  • Charting Emotions: When reading or talking about feelings, write them down or chart them out. This gives a visual for how feelings change and move.
  • Ranking The Intensity of Feelings: It is important for children to understand that there are no “good” or “bad” feelings. All feelings happen to everyone at some point in time. There are feelings that are pleasant and that we prefer and then some feelings that make us uncomfortable. Children can become more knowledgeable about feelings by ranking the intensity of various feelings. For example, if a child says he is angry ask “On a scale of 1-5, with 5 being furious, how angry are you?”

Having a firm understanding of feelings is key to the practices of empathy and perspective taking. When children can label their own feelings it becomes easier for them to recognize the feelings of others.

(Content written in collaboration with Lipsett Learning Connection) 

About Kasey: 
Kasey is a mom to two fabulous daughters, loves mint chocolate chip ice cream, and loves to dance. She has very acute hearing and can track multiple conversations at once! She loves to read and take naps in her spare time. Kasey’s knowledge of the school system and best practices for teaching and learning, paired with her honed counseling skills, leaves her expertly suited to work with children and their families. She believes in the power of play and that all behavior is communication.

She holds a Masters in Education for School Counseling and a Post Counseling Licensure Certificate in Community Counseling. She is actively pursuing licensure in Virginia as a Licensed Professional Counselor. Her professional journey has included teaching, working at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum education programming department, and community counseling. Since 2006, she has worked in Fairfax County Public schools as an Elementary Professional School Counselor and as a Resource Counselor for School Counseling Services in FCPS’s central office.


Until next week, Be Wise!