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Feelings enhance life, but they can also create some complications. If you have more than one child, quite different feelings may occur during a single shared situation. One child may feel excited about going to a first soccer game, for example, while the other sibling may feel disappointed that he isn’t getting to play. That’s when shin guards tend to disappear. One child may feel bored with what they are doing, while the second is engrossed in building a tower. That’s when the tower is “accidentally” demolished.

Situations involving multiple or opposite emotions can be helped if your children can learn about and have words for feelings and emotions. If they have an understanding of what they are feeling, it will give them a clue about what to do and say in a way that is constructive.

Specifically, kids benefit from having a feeling vocabulary. This means they have words to describe their and others’ emotions—all of them, including the pleasant happy and excited feelings as well as the unpleasant angry, frustrated, and bored feelings. They also need to understand and have words for the range of feelings that they will experience. Some feelings are mild and others more intense. Angry, for example, spans a continuum. Annoyed and irritated may be mild forms of anger while livid and enraged are at the intense end of the spectrum.

When we acknowledge the emotions experienced and expressed (verbally or nonverbally) by our children, we acknowledge that feelings are not good or bad. Feelings are a part of being human. Denying feelings (“You’re not mad at your brother. You know he didn’t mean to . . .”) or discounting feelings (“Don’t make such a big deal out of it—it was nothing”) teaches your children to mistrust their feelings. Being able to trust feelings is an important life skill for dealing with both our inner lives and interactions with others.

Help your children develop a feelings vocabulary. Siblings can learn the skills they need to interact more peacefully.