Why can't girls express their feelings in advance?

Feelings ABC: How children learn to put emotions into words

Ball, dog, tree, biscuit: children quickly learn to name the things they can see, touch and put in their mouths. To put a feeling into words, on the other hand, has a completely different quality. "Emotional learning begins in the first months of life," says Monika Wertfein, a qualified psychologist and speaker at the State Institute for Early Childhood Education in Munich.

The most important steps, she explains, take place in the first six years of life. The children learn to express their feelings through facial expressions, gestures and sounds. Initially mainly by laughing, crying or screaming, later more and more differentiated.

At the same time, there is a growing understanding of what triggers feelings. Another important development step is the ability to regulate emotions: the cuddly toy gives comfort after a bad dream.

From the age of two, children begin to put feelings into words. Parents lay the foundation much earlier when they name their child's feelings, even if he or she does not yet have the words for them. For example, if it screams angrily because its big brother has splashed it with water: "That really annoyed you, right?"

Later on, the children adopt the terms their parents offer them. They don't always know the meaning, "but they already understand that fear is something other than teddy bears," says linguist Gisela Klann-Delius.

The professor of linguistics at the Free University of Berlin researches how children learn to speak and understand: "They acquire the meaning of words in conversation with their parents or other caregivers."

Children form a kind of lexicon of emotions

A kind of lexicon of emotions is formed term by term: By putting them into words, children develop a knowledge of emotions. “This helps children to foresee situations and to react appropriately,” explains psychologist Monika Wertfein.

This is also the basis for understanding the feelings of others. Children can tell that the little playmate is bursting into tears with disappointment because his building block tower has collapsed - and can then comfort him.

The emotional climate in the family plays a decisive role in how children later deal with their feelings, says Wertfein. Talking openly about your own feelings is just as important as responding appropriately to the children's emotions. Parents shouldn't downplay anger and sadness, but they can suggest strategies to make them hurt less.