Turn the clock back an hour and do some catching up with the kids and their feelings

With the hub-bub and sugar rush of Halloween now past and the “big” holiday season just gaining traction, it’s a good time to evaluate where kids stand. Some may be experiencing a mid-semester slump, while others may be hitting their stride. And life is busy.

Sports seasons are well underway. For schools on 9-week quarters, the first report card may still be fresh in mind. Friend dramas may be unfolding (with new chapters daily!). As the days continue growing shorter, some kids, just like adults, may be vulnerable to seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

Though according to the Healthy Children website, sponsored by the American Academy of Pediatricians, it tends to begin in the early 20s and the risk increases with age, “children and adolescents can also suffer” the symptoms. They include craving comfort foods and becoming fatigued, depressed, and irritable. The article says, “Children with depression struggle to concentrate on their schoolwork. Their grades may drop, worsening feelings of low self-esteem,” adding that “Symptoms that last more than two weeks are cause for concern.”

Whatever the feeling, it’s important to help kids identify what’s going on and give them tools and strategies for dealing.

Last year, in an article titled, “EQ vs IQ: Why Emotional Intelligence Will Take Your Kid Further in Life,” by Lisa Kadane, writing for Today’s Parent, suggest that “some experts and educators” say that emotional intelligence or emotional quotient (EQ) matters more than IQ in determining life success—including in relationships, health, and quality of life. On a more immediate level, the article also says, “It’s been shown that children with high EQs earn better grades.”

How to help kids develop their EQ? The Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning at Vanderbilt University, which is a “five-year project designed to strengthen the capacity of Head Start and child care programs to improve the social and emotional outcomes of children,” which is under the direction of Dr. Mary Louise Hemmeter, offers an excellent resource for parents: “Teaching Your Child to: Identify and Express Emotions.”

Among the suggestions, it says, “Help your children understand their emotions by first giving the feelings names and then encouraging them to talk about how they are feeling.” It continues, “For example, you might say to your child, ‘Daddy left on a trip, you are sad.  You said you want your Daddy.’ By giving your child a label for her emotions, you enable your child to develop a vocabulary for talking about feelings.”

The article suggests that “you might point out a situation and ask your child to reflect on what someone else may be feeling.” Or if your child has recently seen you get mad over something, you might ask them if they remember what your face looked like. “Can you make a mad face like Mommy’s?”

It urges that parents “Talk with your children about different ways you deal with specific feelings.” You might say something like ‘When I get mad I take a deep breath, count to three, and then try to think of the best way to deal with my problem.” Or that when Grandpa is mad, “He sits on the porch until he figures out what he wants to say about it,” and say to a child, “You should sit and think when you get angry.”

The online learning destination Anywhere Teacher actually includes activities (“Introducing Basic Emotions” and “What’s That Feeling”?) that help little ones recognize and name emotions and match them to facial expressions.

Gustave Flaubert once said that “One can be the master of what one does, but never of what one feels,” but it’s certainly possible to get better at it. As we fall back in Daylight Saving Time, help kids take a step forward in talking about, identifying, and handling emotions.