At The Discovery School we aim to develop children’s emotional literacy so that they are confident in recognising and managing the full range of emotions. We teach the importance and purpose of different emotions (e.g. happiness, sadness, anger, fear, surprise, nervousness) and that these emotions happen in relation and response to their experiences. We do not categorise emotions as ‘good’ or ‘bad’.
A great starting point for this work is the film Inside Out which explains how all emotions are necessary and important and that the brain works best when those emotions work in balance with each other.
Our curriculum looks at emotions on a graduated scale, appropriate to children’s developmental stage. Typically this covers:
EYFS and Key Stage One: Recognising fear, joy, disgust, surprise, sadness, anger, happiness.
Key Stage Two: Recognising pride, shame, dismay, jealousy, embarrassment, empathy. Also recognising multiple emotions (feeling good, bad or indifferent at the same time), false emotions (pretending to like a present).
We use the Zones of Regulation to help children understand how emotions relate to events and the reactions that provoke ‘expected’ and ‘unexpected’ reactions. It helps children to understand what level of emotion is appropriate and how to regulate themselves by applying calming or alerting strategies.
The language around emotions is incredibly important. We do not say that feelings or emotions are “good” or “bad” as research has shown that this can impact self-esteem and contributes feelings of confusion and shame. The Zones of Regulation instead talks about ‘loss of control’. Children plan to avoid the red zone (losing control of their emotions) by recognising triggers and signs that their emotions are escalating and regulating these feelings by using a toolbox of strategies.
We also look at how things impact our emotions, for most pupils, this includes:
that the behaviour of others can affect their wellbeing
their own behaviour and emotions can affect others
the impact of life events (parents separating, arrival of a new sibling)
the many factors that can affect mood such as responsibilities, personal preferences, exercise
how events can affect the intensity of our emotions
It is important for children to understand that feeling emotions such as sadness doesn’t mean we are mentally unwell - feelings often change throughout the day and over longer periods. We link this back to Zones of Regulation and ‘expected’ and ‘unexpected’ emotions. Children learn that they may need to seek advice and support if they are reacting to a situation or event in an ‘unexpected’ way. For example, if a beloved pet passed away, we would expect a child to feel sadness for a period of time following (grief). This may last a while and reappear due to triggers but fades over time. It would be ‘unexpected’ to feel the same level of sadness if you had lost your pencil at school. If an event like this triggers this level of emotion then you may need some extra help in managing these emotions.
We try to normalise seeking help, when appropriate. Sometimes mental wellbeing can be affected, e.g. by life events or seemingly lower-level stressors and:
people sometimes need help to get better or cope, e.g. help from family, friends, a doctor
wellbeing is a spectrum and addressing issues early can minimise the negative impact
people can seem happy but still need help
You may find the following resources helpful:
The following video from the BBC helps younger children to understand happiness.
It is important that we acknowledge sadness as a normal emotion.
The following video may help younger children to understand sadness.
We use The Five Point Scale to help children understand the escalation of their emotions, including anger. You may also find the following resources helpful:
Here is a video that may help younger children understand anger from the BBC
Fear and anxiety
Click here for some general information from the NHS about anxiety
Young Minds – Parents’ guide to supporting an anxious child
Useful article from The Child Mind Institute on dos and don'ts for anxious children
Background info on what causes anxiety and strategies for supporting your child.
This video from the BBC helps to explain worry to younger children.
The BBC has some excellent videos on a range of emotions, aimed at children in years R to 2