Have you heard of the term ‘emotional literacy’?
It is a phrase used to describe the awareness of your emotions and the ability to understand and respond to them (Joseph, G.E., & Strain, P.S. 2003).
For children who have a strong foundation in emotional literacy, there are many benefits. For example, they:
- Tolerate frustration better;
- Are likely to get into fewer fights;
- Engage in less self-destructive behaviour than children who do not have a strong foundation;
- Are generally healthier;
- Less lonely;
- Less impulsive;
- More focussed; and
- Have greater academic achievement.
Children are better able to understand their emotional experiences if they have a strong feeling word vocabulary. This is important as it allows the child to develop emotionally through improved communication of their feelings, and the ability to distinguish between emotions.
Is Teaching Emotional Literacy Important?
It can be difficult for children to understand their feelings, especially those of stress, depression, loss, and anxiety, and even more difficult to speak about them or talk about how they are feeling. However, it is very important for children to be able to do this as it supports:
- Developing self-confidence;
- Boosting self-esteem;
- Social and emotional development;
- Emotional self-management over impulse reactions;
- A child’s mental and physical well-being;
- Developing empathy; and
- Improves the quality of their life and relationships
Healthy emotional development helps to shape the rest of their lives, and being emotionally literate helps children express their own emotions effectively, appropriately, and productively, while also developing positive social interactions with other people in society.
How to Encourage Emotional Literacy in Children
As a parent, caregiver or other interested adult, you can encourage emotional literacy in children by:
- Expressing your own feelings;
- Labelling children’s feelings throughout the day;
- Playing games, singing songs, and reading stories with new feeling words.
Author: Maree Stevens, BAdVocEd; GCert Sp Ed; M SocWk; M HumServ; GDipCouns; GCert MentalHlthPrac.
Maree Stevens is an Accredited Mental Health Social Worker with several years’ experience working with people including children and young people affected by mental health conditions.
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- Sharman, J. (2015), Article, Why the teaching of emotional literacy is so important. http://innovatemyschool.com.
- Joseph, G. E., & Strain, P. S. (2003). Enhancing emotional vocabulary in young children. Young Exceptional Children, 6(4), 18-26.
- What Works Brief, developed by the Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning (CSEFEL). Contributors Joseph, G.E., & Strain, P.S., accessed 14/12/2020.
- Joseph G.E., & Strain, P.S. (2003). Helping young children control anger and handle disappointment. Young Exceptional Children, 7(1), 21-29.