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  • Writer's pictureAlma Community Care

Emotional Intelligence: 3 Steps to Teaching Emotions

By Claudia Rios-Gastelum, LMFT Para este blog en ESPANOL,

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Inteligencia Emocional- 3 Pasos Para Ens
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With in person learning beginning this fall and Covid-19 still interrupting our lives, we thought it would be good to remember our four part series last fall on Childhood Anxiety. We hope the wisdom of our therapists brings healing, help and hope to you and your children as we continue to navigate our new normal.

Helping our children develop emotional intelligence is not only a helpful family value, but it is also a lifelong skill to support them in learning, socializing, and navigating the different roles they play in the world. Did you know there are 27 distinct emotions? Here are 3 helpful steps to support you in teaching your child about emotions:

1) Label Emotions: Use descriptive words to label emotions experienced by those in your child’s surroundings whether it is in yourself, your child, characters of books or movies. With younger children, stick to simple emotions: happy, sad, scared, mad. Describe the intensity of emotions such as saying “You are a little sad when you couldn’t go outside, but you stayed calm.” For older children, you can use more

advanced labels and complex emotions

such as disgusted, inadequate or


2) Describe Nonverbal Language: Our body tends to be very expressive and a great tool to help clarify between emotions. Describe facial expressions, tone of voice, gestures, body positions and movements. For example, “I can tell that you feel happy because you have a big smile on your face and you have a giggly tone of voice.”

3) Link Triggering Situations to Emotions: Help children fill in the story around their emotions. Many children can identify their emotions, but may have a harder time expressing why they feel that emotion. Support children in linking the emotion that you witnessed to the triggering event such as “You felt scared when your sister jumped out from behind the door because you were not expecting her to play a prank.”

One tool to support older children in developing this skill is to teach children how to use “I messages” which consist of 3 details in the following phrase: “I feel_________ (emotion) when _______________ (triggering situation) because ________________ (why it matters).” For example: “I feel frustrated when my child doesn’t clean up their toys because I feel ignored after giving them 2 reminders.”


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