Feelings by Age

Feelings by Age

What your child should be able to understand and express, by age

By Patience Domowski, LCSW

 

Age 0-1: Baby can express sadness by crying, anger by screaming, and happiness by smiling and laughing. Some babies can express surprise too with a facial expression, often following by happy smile or crying depending on how they feel about the surprise. Babies usually respond to their parents and other caregivers emotions and reactions such as being more fussy if they sense mom is upset, or laughing when big sister makes a funny face at them. [Known emotions: Happy, Sad, Angry, sometimes Surprise]

Age 2-4: These little ones are just learning how to talk to express their feelings. Parents can teach them to name their feelings such as saying “I’m Happy!” or “I’m Mad!” when they are acting like they feel that way with their behaviors or facial expressions. Often these kids have very strong opinions and feelings and may show big emotions like anger and disappointment in the form of tantrums and meltdowns and excitement or anger in screaming. Parents can try to have their child say how they feel. Parents can also model this by naming their own feelings so the child learns which emotion goes with which term. For example “Daddy is sad right now because you aren’t listening and putting on your shoes.” “Mommy is so happy to see you after a long day at preschool!”

Some strategies for calming child is to teach them to take deep breaths, give themselves a hug or ask for a hug, and taking a break (such as child going to a private area to calm down, or parents and older siblings leaving them alone in one area until they are calm). Teaching these skills when the child is not upset is helpful so they are ready to use the skill when needed. Parents can also model these strategies themselves by doing and naming them. For example “Mommy is angry right now because you made a big mess when I asked you not to. I’m going to take a break and calm down. I’ll be right back.” or “Daddy is really disappointed you didn't make a good choice and hit your brother. I’m going to take a deep breath.”

Also if the child resists using a strategy to calm down, parents can offer an incentive such as use of a toy or a treat for calming quickly. Often it’s best to ignore screaming and tantrum behaviors until the child calms (if they are too upset to reason with) and then praise them when they are calm and divert to something else. At the preschool age some children are more verbal and understanding than others so it will vary based on your child’s language ability to be able to talk out the feelings and handle them appropriately. [Known emotions: Happy, Sad, Anger, Surprise, Excited, Love, Scared, sometimes Disappointed, Frustrated]

Age 5-7: These early school agers should know the names of most common emotions by now and be able to do some calming strategies. Parents should continue to encourage them to name their feelings and model handling their feelings too. These children may also be recognizing how their actions affect others’ feelings too. Some kids are very sensitive to recognizing others feelings while others are more oblivious. Helping them be aware of how their behaviors and feelings impact others is important. For example if they are mad and hit their sister, it can make their sister feel sad. Or if they are jealous and take their friends toy, the friend may be angry. Expanding their understanding of emotions can grow beyond the basic feelings to more specifics like Happy vs Proud specifically, or Angry broken down into disappointment, frustration, or fear. There are many games and flashcards/posters to use to teach the various emotions. Having children learn what each feeling is called, what it looks like on someone’s face and body, as well as what can cause that feeling is really important for them to grow in emotional intelligence. [Known feelings: Happy, Sad, Scared, Mad, Nervous, Surprised, Excited, Proud, Loved, Disappointed, Frustrated. Maybe: Jealous, Anxious]

Ages 8-10: These kids should be pretty familiar with most emotions. They may continue to express their feelings in acting out ways, but should know some strategies for coping and calming down. If they still struggle they may need to see a specialist to help. They should be more aware of other people’s feelings and be able to offer comfort to others if needed. They should be able to name an experience that would cause a feeling. For example “If my brother messes up my lego creation, I would be mad” or “If my friend got a new toy and I didn't, I would be jealous”. [Known feelings: Happy, Sad, Mad, Scared, Surprised, Anxious, Excited, Proud, Disappointed, Frustrated, Jealous, Loved, Uneasy, Annoyed, Nervous]

Ages 11-13: Preteens are hitting that hormonal puberty stage where their feelings may be all over the place. They may be getting upset and angry for no clear reason and acting out more than usual. Helping them realize its their hormones that are out of whack, not that the world is against them may be helpful in helping them calm their reactions. They may need more space and understanding as they navigate this difficult time. Parents should be understanding but also not allow them to be disrespectful either. Often preteens need time and space to calm down and think through their feelings and when they are in a better mood often talking about it can help. [Known emotions: at this age they should know most if not all the emotions, but may struggle to differentiate specific breakdowns of feelings such as anxious versus scared].

Ages 14-18: Teens should be able to name and know all the emotions and may admit to struggling with certain ones specifically- like anxiety or anger. They should know some coping strategies to calm down and be able to manage their extreme feelings. If they are extremely up and down with mood it can be a sign of a problem and they may need expert help (ask your doctor or therapist). While it’s normal to feel all the emotions at some point the teen should likely not be all over the place severely such as excitement to furious in a few minutes, for example. As they mature they should be better handling their emotions and learning how to regulate their responses. [Known emotions: All of them. They may have slang terms for some feelings].

Overall it's important to teach children of any age the names of feelings as well as how to recognize them (by facial expression and body language) in themselves and in others. It’s also important for children to learn what causes what feelings. After they learn those basic skills then they can learn calming and coping strategies to feel better such as taking a deep breath when angry or anxious (it tells your brain and body to relax), taking a break (such as walk away, go to room to calm down ,etc). After the child is calm then they can work on a strategy to solve the problem! Even positive emotions like excitement can cause problem behaviors if the child gets too silly, or screams, gets super energetic, etc and may need to calm down. Learning when and where to act appropriately is helpful too. Such as its okay to be silly when playing, or loud when outside, but not during library time at school, for example. There are many books, games, flashcards, posters, etc available for teaching these skills. Look online for ideas. Also realize that if your child has any developmental delays or autism than often these skills will be very delayed and may not come naturally- they may have to be specifically and deliberately taught. For example most children can recognize when their parents are angry, or their friend is upset, but a child with a delay or autism may be completely clueless.

If your child is struggling beyond reasonable expectation seek out help from their pediatrician, school guidance counselor, or a child behavioral therapist.

Some online printable resources: 
Free Download of Various Feelings Activities

More Fun Feelings Crafts and Activities

These are for learning ESL but can be used by native English speakers too!

There are plenty more! Just do a search on Google or Pinterest for free printable emotions activities. 

I have some books on these topics as well. "Violet" discusses Anxiety, "Brianna" discusses Depression (deep long lasting sadness), "Julian" learns about Anger, and "Lily" learns about making friends/social skills (which is related to recognizing others' feelings). They are all for sale on Amazon

Getting on the Same Page, even if you're not in the same book!

same page

The Same Page: Helping Parents Agree on Discipline
by Patience Domowski, LCSW

Many parents struggle to be on the “same page” with parenting. This is totally normal because both mom and dad have their own different personalities, upbringing, thoughts, and ideas that they bring into the relationship. But it can be so frustrating when the parents cannot agree on the same strategies or level of enforcement for discipline at home. Some parents are not only not on the same page, they aren’t even in the same book! Mom might be really strict with the kids because she’s home all day and needs them to listen to her, and dad feels bad he’s not around much so gives in all the time. Or maybe mom’s the nice soft pushover and dad’s the strict one the kids know they can’t get away with anything around him. There does not have to be a “strict parent” and a “fun parent” or a “good cop”/”bad cop” in a parenting couple- there can be the a balance for each parent. It’s really important to try to figure this out so that there is less arguing between the parents, a more cohesive family, and the children aren’t playing parents against each other.

Here are some ways to try to get on the same page with your spouse or co-parent.

1)     Agree on something!  Try to find even something small you agree on – even if it’s just the outcome like you want your children to be “good people” for example. (Then later define what that means and how to get there!)

 

2)      Decide on an outcome. Do we want our children to be happy, balanced, independent, highly educated, etc. Then work on what’s the most important to focus on for our family (Such as school/education, life skills (like learning how to cook, do chores, etc), sports/activities , being social, being creative, future independence, just being “happy”, spiritual/faith based, being healthy, etc) Do the kids need to work on improving their grades? Or are we worried they will live with parents forever because they won’t do chores and get a job? Do we just want them to be happy, we don’t care what they do for the most part?

 

Parents should decide what they’d like to see in the future so they know what they are working towards. It doesn’t have to be super specific like “my child will be a doctor” or “my kid will never eat red meat” or “I really want them to be married or they won’t be happy”. Outcomes can be more general like “I want my child to be independent” or “I want my child to be as healthy as possible” (if child has health concerns, this might be a goal, for example).

 

 

3)     Discuss both parents’ backgrounds and where they come from. Where her parents strict and his super passive? Was she a “child of the ‘60s”, and he from a super conservative family? Discuss child rearing of the parents, how did the grandparents discipline them, what do you want to do the same and what do you want to do differently. Even discuss where they grew up (urban, rural), cultural backgrounds, even socioeconomic status, etc. (Especially if you don’t already know this, or it wasn’t covered in your pre-marital counseling- for married parents).

4)     Try to find a compromise somewhere. The plan doesn’t have to be all mom’s way or all dad’s way. In fact- it really shouldn’t be that one sided. (Because then the other parent will be upset, or one will undermine the other).

5)     Eachparent make a list of what is important to you- then compare and see which things are the same/almost the same.

6)     Decide which behaviors we’re going to “let go” and which we will make a big deal about. Not everyone will agree on what needs to be focused on and that’s okay. [If you can’t decide, see my other article on hierarchy of behavior for my suggestions.]

7)     Even if parents are split and kids go between homes it would be better to still be on same page at both homes for consistency for the children (if this is possible).

8)     Make a plan! Specific behaviors to target, discipline techniques, etc. Write it down and even post it in the house so everyone knows and remembers what to follow. Look online for templates or ideas for making House Rules, chore charts, behavior charts, etc.

9)     Consult with a therapist if needed. A couples/marriage counselor can help get parents to be on the same page, and a child behavioral therapist can help parents come up with specific behavior interventions for their children.

10)Try to get grandparents, babysitters, etc on the same page with the parents for consistency. If the kids know grandma will say yes if mom says no, or the babysitter allows kid to do this and dad would not, it’s going to be difficult to maintain the level of control and discipline you may want in the home. So try to get everyone on board, if possible.

Communication with children and teens

talk to the hand teen

Communication between parents and children/teens

by, Patience Domowski, LCSW

Isn’t it so frustrating when your child/teen won’t talk to you? Especially if they seem to talk better to their other parent, stepparent, friends, teachers, etc. Communication with your child/teen is so important as it builds your relationship together, and prevents some risk factors as well (like drug abuse, for example). Here are some ways to work on this.

 

If your child won’t talk to you…

·         Initiate/ask about their day. Don’t accept shrugs/”fine” answers, press a little more and then back off a little and wait for them to answer. (Riding in the car is the best time to talk usually).

·         Try being more approachable- Don’t expect your child to talk to you every time you try to initiate a conversation but be open and ready when they bring something up/start to talk. If it’s really not a good time tell them that what they have to say is really important to you and tell them when a better time is- and then stick to that time/make sure to come back and discuss it later.  

·         Don’t overreact- Even if your child tells you some shocking things- please act cool or he/she will automatically shut down and refuse to tell you what’s going on. It’s better to know what they are thinking and doing than not so be open minded to hearing what they have to say.

·         Don’t respond with shut downs like “you shouldn’t feel that way” or “don’t do that!” or “you have to do…” but instead just listen to their feelings and give advice if they want it without telling them no or shutting them down.

·         Be nice- don’t make fun of them or say something demeaning or insulting, try not to yell, don’t make a big deal about small things, don’t punish constantly for small problems, try to listen and not just talk. Compliment them when they make good choices or you are proud of them. Tell them specifically what you liked about their behavior/choices/etc.

·         Ask your child how to make things better and try to take their suggestion if possible- If you realize there is a problem but don’t know what it is exactly that is causing your child to pull away or not want to be around you, ask them what the problem is and then try to take their input and see if its fixable.

·         Try to fix the problem – If your child says what the problem is or you realize what it is try to fix it! Be open to changing and don’t just expect your child to change but parents to adjust too. Be willing to compromise.

·         Do fun things together- Find something you have in common to do together or at least something your child enjoys even if you don’t. Go out to eat, go shopping, mini golf, bowling, make crafts/build something together at home

Some writing prompts could work really well as conversation prompts. Check these out. 

Autism/Aspergers and teaching social skills at home

autism

Autism/Aspergers

If you have a child on the autism spectrum you are probably realizing that parenting this child is extremely different that parenting neurotypical children.

[If you aren't sure if your child is on the autism spectrum have them evaluated by any of the following: their pediatrician, a developmental doctor, a licensed therapist, psychiatrist, Early Intervention evaluation team, child psychologist- either independent or at the child's school.

Signs of autism include at least some of the following symptoms -extreme difficulty with social interaction (including poor eye contact, difficulty understanding other person's tone or intent/meaning, struggles to make friends/initiate conversations, "tuned out", doesn't seek out others for interaction, doesn't understand emotions/how others feel), difficulty with communication (either not talking by age 2, barely talking, difficult to understand, difficulty with conversation skills/pragmatics/turn taking), repetitive behaviors/sensory problems (head banging, flapping, spinning in circles etc), restricted interests (will only play with dinosaurs, lines up cars, etc), other difficult behaviors (defiance, lack of focus, extreme inflexibility, difficulty transitioning between activities, needs a lot of help with basic life skills activities).] 

Children on the Spectrum need visual directions often, and help learning every behavior that most other kids will naturally pick up on without having to be specifically taught. I recommend find a good therapist and get them in a school/classroom that will meet their needs. Because autism is such a spectrum: from the severe nonverbal kids that might also have intellectual disability to the high functioning brilliant Asperger’s kids that your child’s treatment needs to be individualized and work best for their needs.

There is not really a one size fits all treatment for every kid on the spectrum but some basic tips include:

- use visual cues and directions

(social stories, picture schedules, show pictures or gesture/sign language of what you are asking them to do, write down reminders, instead of telling them what to do use picture cards or list the directions)

-don’t give long explanations just short, concise directions

With typical children explaining WHY is really helpful. With kids n the spectrum they often don’t care or don’t understand. Its usually just extra words they are confusing. SO just state what you want them to do in as a short a way as a possible. Example: “Put toys in box”- for autism child. For typical child you might say- “Please clean this room, because we are having guests visit tomorrow and I don’t want them to trip”.

-Teach and encourage your child to interact with peers.

Instead of expecting them to invite friends over to visit, you might need to take the initiative and invite the peers over and even teach/tell your child what they will play with. They might need some adult directives to play together instead of alone.

-teach them how to recognize and manage their own feelings as well as recognize and react to others feelings

Point out how you feel and how they feel so they start to recognize it.

Examples: “Mom is happy because you just gave me a hug! You can tell I’m happy because I’m smiling!” or “Dad is sad because you just kicked your brother. You can tell I’m sad because I’m frowning and shaking my head”.

“You seem so excited about going on vacation! I know you are happy because you are jumping up and down and smiling!” “You seem angry because your brother took your toy. I think you are angry because you have a mad face and are stomping your feet.”

-if they have sensory needs get them the sensory tools they need to help and a good O.T./therapy to help. [See sensory article] 

Communication Picture Game

I made a picture game to teach communication skills. When you land on a picture you have to comment on the picture or ask the other player about that topic. 

Getting your child to talk about their day

kid talking to mom

Getting your child to talk to you about their day at school/camp/etc

If your child comes home from school and won't talk about their day, here are some suggestions...

1) Don't let them get away with "I dont know" or a shrug when you ask them about it. Keep asking, or don't let them move on until they give a response. Often they just dont want to think about it or hope you will just let it go. Once they learn they have to respond with something, they usually will! If they need some time to decompress after they come home, try asking them about it at dinner or bedtime instead of right off the bus.

2) Suggest options for them to pick from: "Which special did you have today? Music or Art?" , or give more closed-ended questions to get them thinking more specifically. "Who did you sit with on the bus?" ," What did you play at recess?" "Tell me something new/funny/etc that happened today?" If they are in preschool, for example, and the teacher sends home a paper/note daily to tell parents about the child's day, use that as a jumping off point to discuss. "I see your teacher said you played with playdough today, tell me about that?" or "Oh you had gym today, what did you play in gym class?"

3) Everyone in the family has to share something about their day at dinner. With parents and older siblings modeling this, younger children will often soon learn how to join in. It just becomes the expectation to discuss. This could be done at bedtime alternatively.

4) Let the child draw a picture of something that happened that day, or write down a response if they are not verbal learners or have difficulty with communication (often this will work better with kids with Aspergers)

5) I made up a form that I have used with some clients to have them write a little something or draw something about their day. In therapy I have used "I don't know" tickets. I give the child 5 tickets for example in therapy and when I ask them questions if they say " I don't know" I take away a ticket. When they run out of tickets (may be for a few different questions, not all at once) then they have to respond. Kids usually catch on quick and don't want to lose the tickets so will answer! Even if the tickets don't mean anything! They also will often not need the tickets after a few sessions, because they learn that I won't just drop it and they get used to responding to me.

6) Consider that your child might legitimately not know due to memory issues, too young to process, or they can't think about what happens in different settings when not in that setting. Try suggestion number 2 above and if that's unsuccessful, they may just not be able to respond at this time (until they are older or more advanced in learning/cognitive skills).

Teaching Language skills

child asking dad for something

Using Language to Communicate to Get what you want

Kids (especially Autistic children) have to be taught to communicate (whether its verbally, with sign language, picture exchange, or tech device). They will often use the least amount of effort to get what they want.
Even typical (non autistic/non special needs) kids will often cry or whine for something if they are not made to communicate properly if that behavior will still get them what they want.

Problem example:
Child wants milk. He whines. Mom knows what he wants, so she gives him the milk.
Child wants to eat. He cries. Mom fixes him dinner.
Child wants a toy. He points to it and grunts. Dad hands him the toy.
Child wants something at a store. He throws a tantrum. Mom/Dad buy the toy.

Even if you know what your child wants, other people may not, and you want your child to learn to communicate (usually verbally) instead of making noises (grunts), pointing (in some cases), crying, or tantrumming to get what they want/need.

Here's what you can do. "Friendly Sabotage": Hold the object/item the child wants, or put it just out of reach and DO NOT give it to the child until they communicate appropriately (whatever is acceptable and Possible for that child whether its talking, using pictures, signs/gestures, etc).
For example. Child wants drink. He points to cup and whines. Mom holds the cup and says "Drink. Do you want drink?" Child nods. Mom waits. Mom repeats "Drink. I want Drink". (Either says what the child should repeat, or waits for child to make request). Child says "Drink/I want Drink" Mom gives him/her the drink.

Another example. Teacher/Therapist/etc is doing a craft with the child. Teacher/therapist withholds the tools needed (markers, glue, scissors) and tells the child to do a task. "Write your name on the paper". When child realizes they need a tool to complete the task, they must ask for the tool first. "I need marker please!" Teacher/Therapist can hold the marker/glue/etc or say the word for child to repeat. "Do you need marker? Ask for the marker/ I want marker, please."

If child cannot talk then use sign language, or picture exchange (your child's therapists/teachers should come up with the best communication system for your child in consultation with parents and observing child's preferred way of learning and his/her abilities already) - consult with your child's speech therapist and special education teacher, as well as with behavioral therapists for more ideas and suggestions and ways to teach this skill.

Teaching Communication and Directions

Barrier games are great for teaching following directions, listening, giving directions, prepositional placement, and other skills! Both kids (or child and therapist/teacher/parent) each have the same pictures and a background. The person Giving Directions places pictures around the background page and tells the other person where to place there's. (There should be a divider or "Barrier" between the pictures). The other person tries to follow along. After a few pictures (Do maybe 10 or less), then remove barrier and see if the Follower or Listener of Directions followed what the Giver of Directions said!
(Here's an example of a direction: "Put the rooster on TOP of the barn in the Middle of the board. Put the Sheep to the Right of the Cow at the bottom of the page." etc)

 

 


See Speech Barrier Games explained
Barrier Games to Download

Angry Birds Barrier game I made from these links:
Easy to make your own! You just need two of each piece, two of each background!

Print the Angry Birds pictures Template 1 and 3 (two copies of each page)
Angry Birds pictures
Print 2 of these backgrounds : Background