Help Your Child Express their Mixed-Up Feelings

Using art and color can help your child identify and express their feelings! Build emotional intelligence and help your child understand their mixed up feelings!

If you’ve ever been the guest of honor at a surprise party you can relate to mixed-emotions.

The flood of feelings can be overwhelming…surprise, joy, excitement, maybe shy because you didn’t expect it or even a little upset that your friend didn’t tell you.

As adults, we understand that mixed-up feelings are part of a surprise party. In fact, we know that mixed-up emotions are part of life.

Your kids, however, may not be aware that they can have a bunch of different feelings at the same time.

Helping kids realize their mixed-up feelings can be empowering.  Helping them express their emotions can make a huge difference in your relationship.

Talk About Feelings

The first step to help your child identify and express their mixed-up feelings is to start talking about it together.

  • You can identify your own feelings, “I’m sad that my picture frame broke and I’m relieved that no one was cut by the glass.”
  • You can try to guess your child’s feelings, “It seem like you might be excited to try this new swimming lesson and also a little worried or nervous.”

You might get it right, you might not, but the important thing is that you are letting your child know that it is ok to have more than one feeling at the same time.

If you need a refresher on emotion words, there are a ton of resources available on Pinterest or Google.

Draw About Feelings

In my therapy practice, I often have kids draw about their feelings.  Here is a visual activity you can use with your kids to help them identify and express their emotions. (Click here for the PDF version)

My Mixed Up Feelings Document

  • Start by helping them write a few feeling words (or, if your child is old enough they can look at a list of feeling words and choose their own).
  • Then, have them choose a color for each feeling.  You might think “red” =  “angry,” but let your child choose the colors that make sense to them.
  • Explain to your child that they are to fill up the circle with the colors they chose.  If they feel a lot of one feeling, they can color in a lot of the circle, if they just feel it a little bit, they can color a little of the circle.
  • Once the circle is colored, you can make observations about what you see on their page.
    • “It seems like you are feeling mostly sad, with a little bit of worried.”
    • “I see a little bit of ‘happy’ peeking out from under the sad!”
    • “You used a lot of purple! I didn’t know you were feeling so nervous!”
  • Ask if they would like to talk about their mixed-up feelings.  It is ok if they don’t want to talk now.  Let them know that you’re willing to listen anytime.
    • If they do want to talk, start by saying something like, “Can you tell me more about all of this blue sadness?” Or, “Which feeling do you want to talk about first?”
    • Don’t try to fix anything.  Just listen and reflect back what they are saying, “Oh, it doesn’t seem fair when Sam gets a new truck and you don’t.”
  • Thank your child for helping you understand how they feel.

Let me know how it goes

I’m always surprised by the colors kids chose – black, gray, blue and green. While some just fill in ther whole circle pink.  Even though you identify other colors and feelings.  They may just be all “pink” that day!

Try this with your kids!  I’m excited to hear what you learn.

Nicole Schwarz (couch 3)

Welcome! I'm Nicole Schwarz.

I'm a Parent Coach, Licensed Therapist and Author of It Starts with You. I help stressed, overwhelmed, confused parents find calm, confidence and connection with their kids. No one is expecting perfection here. But, if you’re willing to examine your parenting, find encouragement, or try something new, this is the place for you.

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