Recognizing Children’s Emotions

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Mental Heath Talk - Part 1 of 3

Four months ago life changed and we were filled with uncertainty. Without our usual activities and expectations we had trouble knowing if we were doing okay. Together we have focused on managing our expectations and living in the moment. But how do these changes make us feel?  It’s not surprising that reports of mental health concerns are on the rise.

Recognizing and Identifying Emotions is the First Step
Reports say that people are experiencing lots of big feelings during the pandemic: sadness, frustration, worry, boredom, loneliness and resignation. Many express their feelings using words, but it’s important to know that we also experience emotions in physical and behavioural ways.

Children don’t always express their feelings in the same ways as adults, so it’s key to recognize other signs that something may be going on: 

  1. Irritability: Is your child more grumpy or cranky than s/he used to be? 
  2. Outbursts: Have you observed new acting out behaviour, tantrums or angry outbursts recently? Is your child quick to anger or getting angry over things that didn’t bother him/her before?
  3. Mood: Does your child seem sad? Are they crying more often? Are they less happy?
  4. Disinterest: Has your child lost interest in activities s/he used to enjoy?
  5. Withdrawal: Is your child more withdrawn from family and/or friends? Are they avoiding social gatherings or choosing to isolate himself/herself from others?
  6. Clinginess: Have you seen an increase in clingy behaviour? Does your child seem to need someone to be with him/her no matter where s/he is?
  7. Refusal: Is your child refusing to do certain things that s/he used to do?
  8. Needs Reassurance: Does your child frequently ask questions about “what if” something is going to happen? Does s/he seek frequent reassurance or has s/he developed a specific fear that is different from before?
  9. Physical: Have you noticed that your child is reporting more frequent physical symptoms like headaches, tummy aches or loss of energy without a medical cause?
  10. Sleeping: Is your child having trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or experiencing nightmares that are different from before?
  11. Eating: Have there been significant changes in your child’s eating habits (i.e. eating more/less)?

It’s important to support our children’s mental well-being during the pandemic. As parents or professionals, we are likely to respond differently if we think a child is misbehaving versus if they are feeling insecure, worried or sad. Recognizing emotions and its impact will help us know what to do next. 
Visit our website for mental health resources in York Region and Simcoe County. For emergency, please call 911 or go to the nearest hospital emergency department.