by Nabanita Dutt

Children Can Learn To `Label’ Emotions With A Heart-Love Pillow


Children are not born with a handy vocabulary of words to understand emotions. They feel the whole spectrum of positive and negative emotions as we adults do, but they cannot identify, understand or process them. It is incredibly important therefore, that children be encouraged to label their feelings, so they can differentiate between the 6 basic emotions – anger, distrust, fear, happiness, sadness and surprise. Each of these 6 basic emotions trigger behavior with a high survival-value, so it is necessary for kids to first learn to label and understand them before advancing to more complex emotional variations.

Step # 1:

• Wait for an opportune moment when your child is having an intense experience of any of the 6 basic emotions. Talk to the child during or immediately after the event, so the feeling is still fresh in the mind.

Step # 2:

• Explore the specific feeling in great detail, and then help the child to draw a simple smiley/expression face to identify the emotion.

Step # 3:

• Award different colors to positive and negative emotions, so there is a color correlation that forms in the child’s mind as well. Use the 7 colors of human energy chakras as guidance, as this can bring the healing influence of color therapy into childlike artistic expressions. For example: Green for happiness, as it is the heart chakra color that imbues positive experiences related with love and loving activities. Red for anger, as the strong negative emotion is born from the red, root chakra. And so on.

Step # 4:

• When the child draws a smiley/expression face while still undergoing that feeling, he/she will instinctively associate that feeling from there on with the face. Write the name of the emotion on top of the drawing and save it for later.

Step # 5:

• Whenever the child is going through similar emotions, encourage him/her to pick the drawing that most resembles what he/she is feeling at the moment. Pin that drawing to the Heart-Love Pillow, and let it stay there until the child decides the feeling has completely dissipated. Sticking a matching expression face to the Heart-Love Pillow visually validates the emotion, and the child learns it is okay to be experiencing it. The Heart-Love Pillow holds that feeling for them – thus sharing the burden, if it is a heavy one – until the feeling is gone.

Step # 6:

• Once the child thinks it is okay to remove that smiley/expression face from the pillow, encourage him/her to replace it with whatever’s currently being experienced.

Step # 7:

• Once the 6 basic emotions have been covered, you can expand the emotions vocabulary with related emotions, and use the Heart-Love Pillow and smiley/expression face drawings to represent those too.

Step # 8:

• Over time, the child will learn to identify, accept and process a variety of emotions. This practice will become the bedrock of his/her personal growth, and help to build strong coping skills.