Emotional self-awareness involves identifying and understanding one’s emotions – including “big feelings” that can sometimes overwhelm us. Seven-year-olds can begin to identify complex emotions in themselves and others, and they can talk about how feelings can affect a person’s behavior. For example, they can begin to see that feeling jealous of a friend might make you act grouchy toward that friend. They can also understand that people may have more than one feeling at the same time.

How to build your child's emotional vocabulary:

Teach "I" Statements
To help children understand the cause and effect between external experience and internal emotions, show them how to form an "I" statement: "I feel _______ (insert feeling word) when _____ (share what caused this feeling)." These statements open up the door to honest communication and creative problem solving. Here are some examples of how "I" statements can be used to reframe emotions and clearly articulate feelings.

I feel mad when my little sister goes into my room without asking me first.
I feel sad when you go to work and I have a babysitter.
I feel left out when my friends have a playdate and I can't go.
I feel peaceful when we color together and I wish we did it more often.

Introduce and Normalize Complex Emotions
Continue to build children's emotional vocabulary by introducing more complex, nuanced emotions such as frustration, loneliness, grief, jealousy, anticipation, wonder, gratitude, hope and peace. When you see them experiencing one of these emotions, share your observation: "It's been two weeks since your friend moved away. Are you feeling lonely?" Use specific words to describe your own emotions so that children see that everyone has feelings: "When I sit outside and listen to the birds, it helps me feel peaceful"; or "I felt really frustrated today when I couldn't find some papers that I needed for work."