Increasing One’s Emotional Vocabulary
Emotional vocabulary is the set of words used to express their feelings and emotions. Emotional vocabulary is a lot like regular vocabulary words. We start out knowing a few, but as we get older, we learn more which increases our understanding. Like regular vocabulary words, one’s emotional vocabulary has to be developed over time. Being well-versed in feelings and emotions allows people to identify specific emotions, acknowledge them, and respond to them.
The Importance of Building an Emotional Vocabulary
It’s easy to teach children about strong feelings such as anger, happiness, and sadness. However, the spectrum of emotions is quite broad and nuanced. As children get older, they should add to their vocabulary of emotions. Becoming familiar with a variety of emotions will give them the opportunity to know and understand how and why they feel a certain way—more importantly, they will also be able to pick up on other people’s feelings. Being able to understand feelings and emotions is important in a child’s social development.
How Does it Happen?
Even before a child is able to talk, they can already feel emotions but are unable to say them. Children learn the names of emotions from parents and other caregivers.
The ability to identify, read and respond to emotions are the key components of emotional intelligence. Children with emotional intelligence are able to relate with other people and thus have the opportunity to form friendships.
Note: Teaching emotional literacy to kids with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can be quite challenging, but it is not impossible. This will require accommodations and adjustments when conducting activities. If needed, you can enlist the help of therapists to effectively teach your child.
Some Activities to Try
1. The Feelings Poster: Make a master list of feelings that you know. Draw facial expressions that match each emotion. Make the activity more interactive by talking to your child about each feeling while working on the poster. When done, put it up in a spot at your home where it can easily be seen.
2. Reading Together: When reading a book or a story with your child, ask your child how they think some characters felt and why they think characters did what they did in certain events.
3. Act It Out: Play charades but use feeling and emotions as the keywords to guess. Emphasize the use of facial expressions and body movements.
4. Journal: Give your child short writing prompts that are specifically about feelings. Their output can be a short paragraph or an essay. The point of this activity is to give them the chance to contemplate each feeling and express it in writing.
Remember that the main goal of the activities should be to help children name and identify emotions. Through these activities, children will be able to use and improve their emotional intelligence, verbal communication, and social skills.
Building a child’s emotional vocabulary is a long process. Adding words to your emotional vocabulary is just as important as adding words to your language vocabulary. Emotions are learned best when taught using different approaches. Luckily, the activities above can be incorporated into your day-to-day lives at home and in school to help you facilitate the learning process.