Talking About Emotions

Helpful Hints for Talking About Emotions

Managing strong emotions can be difficult for many children, but this can be especially challenging for kids with sensory processing difficulties.

Think about how you perceive emotions. How do you tell the difference between being embarrassed and angry? Nervous or excited? There are subtle differences in the way these emotions physically feel. Both angry and embarrassed may result in a flushed face, but angry may lead to an increase in your heart rate, while embarrassed may lead to a “sinking” feeling in your stomach.

Some children with sensory processing difficulties have a high threshold for noticing touch, movement or other sensory inputs. They may not interpret the first physiological signs of an emotion until the emotion is quite intense. Other children are extremely sensitive to such sensory input, and may become distressed by the physical implications of emotions. Either way, children with sensory processing difficulties can have a hard time accurately interpreting internal and external sensations involved with emotion.

So what can you do?

  • Talk about emotions. Name your own emotions specifically: “I feel anxious right now, I’m worried we might be late.”
  • Talk about how emotions physically feel: “When I feel anxious, my tummy feels jumpy and I have a hard time holding still”.
  • Look at pictures that show different emotions, as well as different levels of emotion. Does the boy in the picture look bored? Tired? Exhausted? Does the girl look annoyed? Angry? Furious? Look through magazines or clip art online to find pictures to use.
  • Help your child give a name to emotions before they get too big to handle. In the middle of a meltdown, your child is not going to be able to take in and process new information.
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