“Kei te Pehea Koe? How do you feel?”

Have you asked your 4 year old recently how they feel? It is important that as parents and caregivers we are able to help our children identify their feelings and learn to understand there they come from and why.

This is the question our kaiako asked tamariki at mat time in the Tui room. When it came to Maia’s turn, she looked down to the floor and replied with a tiny voice, “I’m feeling sad because I miss my nana.”

“Would you like to have cuddles from me and your friends?” I asked.

Maia nodded her head so all of the other children and I gave her the biggest cuddles. She looked much happier afterward and went back to her seat with a smile on her face.

“Kei te Pehea Koe? How do you feel Maddy?” I spotted Maddy sobbing on the corner. 

“I am feeling frustrated” Maddy replied, half crying.

“Take a deep breath”, Amelia, another four-year-old girl, offered her advice to Maddy.

Maddy breathed in deeply through her nose and then breathed out through her mouth. After taking three deep breaths, she seemed much calmer and was ready to talk about what was happening to her.

In the Tui room, we frequently ask children how do they feel. It is a simple but powerful tool to teach children to identify their feelings and to help them feel they are loved and cared. If someone is feeling down, we then talk about what we can do to make them feel better, such as taking deep breaths, squeezing the stress ball, talking to the teachers or a friend, going for a walk and so on.

Being able to recognise different kinds of feelings is the foundation for emotion-regulation skills, which is one of the most important life skills to teach children. In doing so, the children learn that it is totally OK to feel sad, angry, nervous or frustrated, and there are ways to clam themselves down instead of having a meltdown or losing control over their emotions.

Once children master emotion-regulation skills, they can not only use this knowledge to regulate their feelings, but also are able to support others with empathy and other strategies. Our Tui tamariki have been asking their parents, kaiako and friends, “kei te pehea koe? how do you feel?”, and modeling deep breaths and other techniques to help calm them down.

In the link below there are some recommended books you could read with your 4-year-old/ pre schooler.

https://www.healthnavigator.org.nz/healthy-living/b/books-about-feelings-for-children/