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The Importance of Expressing Feelings

The first modules of Zippy’s Friends and Apple’s Friends focus on feelings. For young children, learning about feelings is a key skill that will help them to manage their emotions and ask for help when needed.

Why is it important to identify feelings?

As children grow up they move from non-verbal ways to express their emotions (largely crying!) to learning to speak and label feelings. However, it isn’t necessary to articulate a feeling to experience it. We don’t have to say “I feel sad” to feel sad. Often we react automatically without labelling the feeling- by crying, looking sad or moving more slowly.

Young children aren’t necessarily used to naming feelings and expressing them. They may have difficulty identifying what feeling they are feeling and why. But being able to communicate feelings to others can be an essential first step to identifying useful coping strategies. If children can’t understand and articulate their feelings they might not be able to ask for and receive help.

Behaviour isn’t always a good indication of how a child is feeling. For example, a child who is feeling anxious about joining a new class may hide that by being aggressive. Identifying the underlying feelings is an important first step in learning how to cope better.

Feelings and PSHE

The PSHE Association recommend that KS1 children have the opportunity to learn “about good and not so good feelings, a vocabulary to describe their feelings to others and simple strategies for managing feelings” They also recommend a PSHE curriculum includes opportunities for children “to communicate their feelings to others, to recognise how others show feelings and how to respond”

The American Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) includes Self-awareness (including the ability to accurately recognize one’s emotions) and Self-management (the ability to regulate one’s emotions) as two of its five core competencies for Social and Emotional Learning (SEL). Their research shows that children who receive quality SEL programmes benefit from:

  • better academic performance
  • improved attitudes and behaviours
  • fewer negative behaviours
  • reduced emotional distress

Zippy’s Friends and feelings

Module one of Zippy’s Friends focuses on four key emotions: sad, angry, nervous and jealous. Each session also looks at coping strategies to feel better. Understanding that we are experiencing these feelings can help us find ways to cope with the situation.

Of the four emotions covered in the first module, jealousy can be trickiest for children to grasp. Although most children will have experienced it, it can’t be summed up with a facial expression like happy, sad or angry. Teachers can find it helpful to ask parents to discuss feeling jealous with their child before they start Session Three. Using lots of different examples of situations where someone could feel jealous can also help.

Like all feelings, jealousy is a spontaneous reaction which we have whether we want to or not. It’s important to emphasise that it’s normal and common. There is no problem with feeling jealous (or angry or sad) - it is what you do when you feel that way that counts.

Zippy’s Friends not only helps children to recognise their feelings. It also helps them to find coping strategies that work for them.

Partnership for Children
14 September 2016