• Maria

Teach Kids The Purpose Of Feelings

Updated: Feb 12, 2021

Helping Kids Understand The Purposes Of Feelings

Feelings: What are they good for?

Absolutely ... well ... quite a lot, actually. Each and every one of our emotions has important purposes, ways it helps us navigate life.

The Purpose Of All Our Emotions

Our emotions have evolved from our instincts to survive by reacting in ways that protected us. This essentially means that our emotions focus our attention and motivate us to act.

Building Emotional Intelligence

Teaching kids the purpose of their emotions leads them to better understand them. With understanding, they can then learn to respond to them in healthy ways – rather than react to, avoid or try to change them into something more “acceptable”. These are 2 core elements of higher Emotional Intelligence.

Understanding looks like:

I feel mad

It’s okay to feel mad

Feeling mad can help me to (stand up for myself, protect myself…etc).

Responding in healthy ways looks like:

First I need to do something to calm down, then I can share my feelings better.

I can calm down by…

counting to ten,

doing jumping jacks (or another exercise),

drawing a picture (of my anger or something calming, for examples),

singing along to some music.

When I’m calmer, I can share how I felt with someone I trust.

The Four Basic Emotions

When teaching kids the purpose of emotions we choose to begin with the 4 basics. These are the emotions that researchers agree are universally recognized from an early age.

The 4 basic emotions are also believed to form the building blocks of more complex emotions we develop and recognize as we learn, grow and mature. See our Feelings Wheel and Feeling Cards linked below.

Key Purposes Of Our 4 Basic Emotions


Happiness helps us to connect with others. It also releases stress in our bodies and encourages our brains to relax, become more open and solve problems effectively.

Reminds us what matters


Sadness leads us to slow down 
and reflect. It helps us process the deeper meaning of our experiences and let go
 of losses. Tears release stress hormones and stimulate the production of feel good chemicals. This is why crying tends to help us actually feel better.

Encourages us to slow down and think about things


Fear signals danger. It lets us know when there is a possible physical or emotional threat. Fear can also trigger anger and the fight-flight-or-freeze response in our bodies that enables us to defend or protect ourselves if needed.

Alerts us to possible danger


Anger also stimulates our body’s fight-flight-or-freeze response when we are feeling challenged. It is meant to prepare us to defend or protect ourselves. It focuses our attention on something we may want or need to change.

Moves us to stand up against problems

The Recap

All emotions have purposes

Emotional Intelligence grows from the ability to understand and respond to emotions

There are 4 basic emotions on which all others are based

Each of the 4 basic emotions has key purposes

How The Feeling Poster Helps

The Purpose Of Feelings Poster shows the 4 basic emotions of happy, sad, scared and mad, along with the purposes of each. This is a great resource for helping kids begin to:

Talk about feelings

Recognize feelings

Understand that each feeling has important and helpful purposes

Learn what some of the important and helpful purposes of each feeling are

Learn to respond to feelings in healthy ways

When kids are ready to explore the more complex feelings beyond happy, sad, scared and mad they can use the Feelings Wheel and Feelings Cards linked below in a similar way.

Emotions flow through our bodies all the time. So, shouldn’t we be learning about them?

Our goal is to help kids become comfortable with all emotions, to know that their feelings are ALL important and okay. From here they can learn what to do. Feelings only become problems when they are misunderstood and then suppressed or expressed in ways that are unhealthy or harmful.


Purpose Of Feelings Poster

Feelings Wheel For Kids

Feelings Cards PDF Version

Feelings Cards Hard Copy Version

Emotional Intelligence Research

Theories Of Basic and Complex Emotions

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