How to Teach Our Children Emotional Literacy

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The ability to label and understand our emotions and appropriately express our feelings is an important skill that needs to be learned in childhood. Children are not born with this ability and must be taught how to identify and express their emotions.  Emotional literacy is the ability to recognize, understand and appropriately express our emotions. states that becoming emotional literate is learning the alphabet, grammar and vocabulary of our emotional lives. What a great way to describe this important life skill!

In fact, a recent poll by USA Today showed that when parents were asked what they most wanted to change in their children’s schools, 75% of the respondents replied emotional literacy, though not by name. The most frequent response at 36% was the need for more school counselors —a need alleviated by Emotional Literacy education.

Research has shown that children who have a strong foundation in this life skill tend to handle frustration better, have fewer fights, and tend to engage in less self-destructive behavior than children who do not have a strong foundation. Teaching our children how to label what they are feeling is a good way to help them become emotionally competent.

According to the Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning, there are three variables that underlie a child’s growing ability to label emotions, such as the child’s temperament and developmental status, parental socialization and environmental support, and the teacher and child care provider’s emphasis on emotional literacy. A parent or educator’s role in helping children develop these skills is of critical importance!

A few months ago, I came across a wonderful company called The Mother Company that addresses and teaches emotional literacy in a fun and educational format. Working with the country’s foremost experts, The Mother Company's aim is to help teach children how to recognize, express, and move through their feelings. Through the use of animated segments, art activities, original songs, and using real kids on their award-winning show, Ruby’s Studio, they provide a fun and supportive environment for children to learn about feelings and how best to express them. My five-year-old loves to read their books and talk about what makes her happy or sad. I found these books to be very helpful in teaching her how to understand and label her feelings. You can read more about this ground-breaking site and show at

Imagine if more children and adults could talk about and handle their emotions in a healthy and non-aggressive manner. Here’s to supporting our children in learning emotional literacy!

How do you help your children understand their emotions?

Featured image courtesy of Flickr.


  • The Emotional Literacy Campaign at
  • Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning.  Brief 21 Fostering Emotional Literacy in Young Children: Labeling Emotions by G.Joseph,P.Strain, M.M.Ostrosky.
  • The Mother Company at

Melissa Northway, M.S., loves to write children’s picture books and her daughter was the inspiration to write about a feisty redhead who loves adventure.  Penelope the Purple Pirate storybook is a Top 25 iTunes book app.  You can read more about Penelope and her next adventure at: and you can reach Melissa at: [email protected] and @melissanorthway.


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