Learning to manage feelings is a life skill

Life skills help youth navigate life successfully. Learning how to manage their feelings is one of these skills that youth need to learn.

One of the many important life skills is managing feelings, which youth should learn early in their development. | MSU Extension

One of the many important life skills is managing feelings, which youth should learn early in their development. | MSU Extension

Life skills are a basic foundation that prepare youth for success in life. As an adult, it should be our goal that every youth possess the necessary life skills to succeed and lead a productive life. As a result, it is our responsibility to help youth reach their full potential by teaching necessary life skills.

It is easy to incorporate life skills into your learning experiences. Using the Targeting Life Skills (TLS) Model by Iowa State University, life skills can be intentionally planned into learning experiences through the use of simple hands-on activities and discussion questions.

One of the many important life skills is managing feelings, which youth should learn early in their development. Learning experiences for this life skill should teach youth how to express their feelings appropriately and recognize emotions in others. Some of the skills youth can learn when managing feelings include:

  • Recognizing a feeling as it happens and being aware of mood and thoughts about that mood.
  • Handling their own feelings and expressing them appropriately.
  • Recognizing how their emotions affect others.
  • Recognizing emotions in others and being sensitive to what they need or want.
  • Managing their own emotions and being able to react appropriately to the emotions of others when they are interacting.

Youth should be able to complete the following skills at each age range. Since children and youth develop at different rates, these skills are only a guide and are not a complete list of skills.

Ages 5-8:

  • Recognize their own feelings
  • Understand that feelings are ok

Ages 9-11:

  • Learn how to express their own feelings appropriately
  • Correctly identify feelings in others

Ages 12-14:

  • Make appropriate responses to the feelings of others
  • Correctly interpret body language
  • Find ways to manage emotional highs and lows

Ages 15-19:

  • Manage their own feelings
  • Respect differences of feelings
  • Manage feelings in intimate relationships

Here are some ways that you can help youth learn the skill of managing feelings:

  • Create a journal to capture feelings, thoughts and moods.
  • Observe friends or family members and try to identify their emotions when they interact with others and when they are alone.
  • Create a feelings chart listing the different emotions that people can feel.
  • Participate in or start a community service project in your town and discuss how it made you feel and how you think it made the people that you helped feel.
  • Discuss a time when you were happy, sad or angry and how your feelings affected others.

Using discussion questions after an educational experience can be a great way to help youth talk about what they experienced and connect their new learning to things they already know. This process is called the Experiential Learning Model (ELM). Here are some sample discussion questions by age range you can use with your activities and experiences.

Ages 5-8:

  • What kind of feelings did you experience during the activity?
  • How did this activity make you feel?
  • How can you use what you learned at home?

Ages 9-11:

  • How did it feel to do this activity?
  • What did you observe during this activity?
  • Why is it important to be able to manage your feelings?

Ages 12-14:

  • What kinds of feelings did you observe in others during this activity?
  • Why is it important to be able to read body language in others?
  • In what other ways could you apply the skills you gained in this activity?

Ages 15-19:

  • What did you learn about conducting this activity?
  • Why is it important to respect each other when people have different feelings?
  • Describe a time when you might need the skills/knowledge you learned today.

For more articles on child development, academic success, parenting and life skill development, please visit the Michigan State University Extension website.

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