The Importance of Teaching Kids to Name Their Feelings

Toddler sitting on a window sill with hands in front of their face hiding their emotions

In the up and down journey of parenting, helping children understand and express their feelings is crucial for their emotional development. One effective way to foster this understanding is by teaching them to name their feelings. This not only aids in their emotional growth but also helps in developing empathy. As an illustrator and mum of 3, I’m so pleased to offer free downloadable art prints that can help along this road.

Why Naming Feelings is Essential

Empathy is a powerful emotion that enhances our ability to connect with others, making us better individuals and contributing to a more compassionate world. Children who learn to identify and articulate their feelings are better equipped to understand the emotions of those around them. This skill is foundational to developing empathy.


a close up of a print showing little ilustrated faces with emotions


Understanding Empathy in Children

According to Tanith Carey, a parenting expert, empathy in children involves the ability to comprehend that others have feelings and the capacity to imagine and relate to those feelings. This understanding leads children to behave in ways that support and comfort others.

The Benefits of Empathy

Children who are trained in empathy from a young age tend to have stronger, healthier relationships as they grow. Research by psychologist Dr. John Gottman highlights that children who receive empathy cope better socially and emotionally during their tween and teen years. They learn to manage their feelings more effectively and maintain more stable friendships.

When Do Children Develop Empathy?

Children are naturally self-centred at birth, focusing on their own needs for survival. However, they are also wired for connection, possessing mirror neurons that help them mimic observed behaviours. By the age of 18 months, children begin to show empathy by mirroring the kindness and compassion they receive from their caregivers. This ability continues to develop, becoming more refined as they grow.

Practical Tips to Foster Empathy in Children

  1. Help Them Name Their Feelings

    • From infancy, acknowledge and describe your child's changing emotional states. This practice helps them recognise and articulate their feelings, laying the groundwork for understanding others' emotions.
  2. Don’t Dismiss Their Feelings

    • Instead of dismissing your child's emotions, validate their feelings. For instance, if they are upset because a sibling damaged their drawing, acknowledge their hurt and explain why they might feel that way.
  3. Use Pretend Play

    • Engage in pretend play with your child, using toys to explore different emotions. For example, act out a scenario where a toy is hurt and discuss how to make it feel better.
  4. Make the Most of Siblings

    • Use sibling interactions as opportunities to teach empathy. When conflicts arise, focus on understanding and repairing the hurt feelings rather than punishment.
  5. Use Pets

    • If you have pets, involve your child in noticing and responding to the pet's emotions. This practice can enhance their ability to empathise with others.
  6. Be a Role Model

    • Children learn empathy by observing their parents. Demonstrate empathetic behaviour by expressing and managing your own emotions in a healthy way.
  7. Read With Them

    • Reading together is a great way to develop empathy. Discuss the characters' feelings and actions, encouraging your child to think about different perspectives.
  8. Think about Restricting Screen Time

    • Encourage face-to-face interactions over screen time. Digital communication can limit the ability to read emotional cues, making it harder to empathise with others
a playroom featuring a desk and two prints, an daily affirmations print and a feelings print


Download Your Free Feelings and Affirmations Prints

To support you in teaching your child to name their feelings, I'm offering two free downloadable art prints: one with positive daily affirmations and another with illustrated faces showing various emotions. These prints are designed to help children recognise and name their feelings, fostering their ability to understand and empathise with others.

Download your free prints now and start the journey of helping your child develop emotional intelligence and empathy.

Download Your Free Prints Here

By teaching your child to name their feelings, you're giving them a valuable tool for life. Not only will this skill help them navigate their own emotions, but it will also enable them to build stronger, more empathetic relationships with others.

Books for Further Reading : 

What's My Child Thinking by Tanith Carey 

General Parenting Books: 

The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read (and Your Children Will Be Glad That You Did) by Phillippa Perry