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Noticing our feelings

Being able to name our emotions and how we're feeling support us to manage them, and regulate. But we need to spend time practising - this is especially helpful for tamariki.

Firstly, the science...

We like a bit of science to help explain the 'why' we're choosing to showcase wellbeing strategies. Research has shown that being able to name our emotions (aka emotional literacy) is a critical skill in being able to manage them. This is simply because when we can communicate them it supports us to express and process them in healthy and appropriate ways. 

Emotional literacy also supports improved wellbeing, reduced anxiety and depression symptoms and increased self-esteem (Brackett, Reyes, Rivers, Elbertson, & Salovey, 2012; Greenberg, Weissberg, O'Brien, Zins, Fredericks, Resnik, & Elias, 2003).

So loads of benefits to the simple act of naming how we're feeling.

Why this activity?

While some of us will feel comfortable naming and sharing our emotions, that's not the case for all of us! This activity allows us to practice and build our, and our tamariki, emotional literacy skills improving all of our ability to understand and communicate how we’re feeling and manage better. Beyond this, this activity supports us to continue being supportive and empathetic, or develop these skills.

You'll need

What to do

This activity was originally designed for classroom use, but can be easily adapted for home too. Basically it's about creating a time to check-in with how you're feeling. Kai times can be a nice time to reflect on this or sometimes as part of the bedtime routine, alongside reading.

If your tamariki are new to an emotional check-in then a great place to start is by having a korero about each of the emotions bubbles. You could focus on one or a few each day and perhaps use these pātai as a guide:

  • What do you think this emotion is?

  • What's it like to feel this emotion for you?

  • Where might we feel this emotion in our tinana? Use the tinana poster to help here. 

  • What colour might we associate with this emotion? - Sometimes it can be helpful to kōrero about emotions as colours - the heavy and hard ones (anger, disgusted) are often whero, the busier ones (uncomfortable, restless) karaka, and easy emotions (calm, focussed) kakariki. Tamariki might want to colour the bubbles in this way. You can also use this idea to kōrero about emotions when needed e.g. “right now we all seem karaka, what can we do to come back to kakariki?”

  • What might this emotion be telling us? Or why do you think we have this emotion?


In this way tamariki become used to kōrero about emotions and begin to understand that there’s no such thing as a ‘wrong’ emotion. Each is exactly right for whatever has happened. 


Once you’ve explored the emotions you might like to have the emotion bubbles handy to check-in with each other each day, or a few times a week, and establish this habit. 


Here's how to support your whānau kōrero around emotions:

  • It's okay to kōrero through the emotions tamariki are feeling (without interrogation!). But it's also okay to just acknowledge the range of emotions you'e all feeling too.

  • You might check-in with tamariki or other whānau who are finding things tough later.

  • Use puku breathing to restore some kakariki or calmness if needed, or to support sleep.

  • Explore some ways to support the heavy emotions and see what works - jump around, run or walk to the trees and back, puku breathe, 5 minutes of kōrero about it, take time for a bit more kai or wai. Use our 20 Ways to Find Calm Again poster and try them all out to see what works best for your whānau. 

We also Love

Wildling Books How Do I Feel Cards. This is a set of 65 emotions cards providing loads of kōrero prompts! Anna from our team describes how useful these cards are in her review for the Mental Health Foundation here, and how you might use them. 

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