Pathways to Wellness

conversation • connection • commitment

Emotional literacy

When we use the word literacy, we usually mean the ability to read and use words.  Emotional literacy takes that concept and applies it to our emotional life.

Emotional literacy is the ability to understand and respond appropriately to our own, and to other people's, emotions. 

It's about "reading" emotions and
using words to communicate about emotions. 

Research has shown that being in touch with your feelings, expressing them constructively, and being in tune with others' emotions are the keys to success and happiness for both children and adults.  Children who are "emotionally literate" are better able to manage emotions and soothe themselves when they are upset; relate better to people and have more friendships; and are better able to focus and achieve in school.  
As a parent, you can play an important role in helping your child learn about their own emotions, and read others' emotions by playing the role of "coach."  

  1. Be aware of when your child is experiencing an emotion.
  2. Use it as an opportunity to connect with your child and teach about emotions.
  3. Listen with empathy and validate your child's feelings – there are no "bad" or "wrong" feelings (but there may be better or worse ways of expressing them!)
  4. Name emotions using words your child can understand  (see  list below)
  5. If needed, help your child come up with an appropriate way to solve a problem or deal with a person or situation that is upsetting.

Being an "emotions coach" might need some practice, and like many of us, you may not have learned the vocabulary of emotions.   There are literally hundreds of ways of describing different emotions, but we think this list of 27 covers the most common emotions that you, and your children, experience.   Post it on your refrigerator as a friendly reminder to you, and your kids, to use feeling words when needed.  Feeling words for kids


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