Observation Guidelines: Assessing the Emotions of Children and Adolescents (page 3)
Paul, age 17, chatters with his friends during his school’s end-of-the-year athletic field day. He is happy about having schoolwork over and looks forward to his summer job and paychecks.
Happiness helps people enjoy life and seek similar pleasurable experiences. Help children and adolescents find appropriate outlets to express their joy, and celebrate with them. Encourage them to talk about things they are happy about.
- Frowns and angry expressions
- Possible retaliation toward the target of anger
Aranya, age 14, is furious that she wasn’t admitted into an elective course, whereas her two closest friends were. Aranya is angry with her teacher, who she thinks dislikes her.
Anger helps people deal with obstacles to their goals, often spurring them to try new tactics. Help youngsters express their anger appropriately and determine how they can redirect their energy toward new solutions.
- Scared face
- Withdrawal from circumstances
- Physiological responses, such as sweating
Tony, age 21⁄2, sits on his mat, eyes wide, body tense. He stares at a new poster of a clown in his preschool classroom. On this particular day, he becomes downright scared; he runs to his teacher and buries his head in her lap.
Fear occurs when people feel threatened and believe that their physical safety and psychological well-being are potentially at stake. Fear motivates people to flee, escape from harm, seek reassurance, and perhaps fight back. Help children articulate their fears. Offer reassurance.
- Sad expression
- Being quiet
- Possible withdrawal from a situation
Greta, age 15, sits quietly on a bench near her locker. With her head hung low, she rereads the letter from a cheerleading organization. She has not been admitted to the prestigious cheerleading summer camp.
People are sad when they realize they cannot attain a desired goal or when they experience a loss, such as a friend moving to a distant city. Sadness causes some people to reassess their goals. Reassure children, help them express their sadness, and encourage them to consider ways to deal with sad feelings.
- Wrinkled nose
- Remarks such as “Phew!”
- Withdrawal from the source of displeasure
Norton, age 8, looks skeptically at the meal he has just purchased in the school cafeteria. He wrinkles his nose and averts his gaze from the “tuna melt” on his plate.
Disgust occurs when people encounter food, smells, and sights they find repulsive. Disgust is nature’s way of getting people to be wary of something that is potentially troublesome or threatening to their health. Respect children’s feeling of disgust, but also encourage them to reflect on why they might have this reaction.
- Frequent worrying
- Excessive fidgeting, hand wringing, or nail biting
- Avoidance of source of anxiety
Tanesha, age 16, has to give an oral presentation to her class. She has spent time preparing but is worried that, when she is standing all by herself in front of the group, she might get so nervous that she forgets everything she wants to say.
As long as it is not excessive, anxiety can spur people to take steps to avoid problems and achieve valued goals. Teach youngsters strategies that keep anxiety at a manageable level, as well as strategies that help them achieve their goals.
- Signs of embarrassment
- Attempts to withdraw from a situation
- Looking down and away from other people
Luke, age 9, is stunned. He’s just had an accident, urinating on the floor. He had felt a bit antsy beforehand but wasn’t aware that he needed to go to the bathroom. Now 20 pairs of eyes are glued on him.
When children feel ashamed, they are aware of other people’s standards for behavior and know they are not meeting these standards. Shame motivates children to try harder. Shame works only when it comes from within; adults should never intentionally ridicule students. Help children redirect their behavior so they can meet their own standards.
- Sad expression
- May appear self-conscious
- May show concern for a person who has been harmed
A. J., age 12, regrets bad-mouthing his friend Pete to other classmates. A. J. sinks down low in his chair, feeling remorse for what he said behind Pete’s back and for Pete’s sadness.
Guilt occurs when people do something that violates their own standards. It leads people to right the wrong. More generally, it causes people to behave in socially appropriate ways that protect others from harm. Help children express their feelings and realize that they can behave differently next time.
- Happy expression
- Desire to show off work and accomplishments to other people
Jacinda, age 5, is beaming. For the last 20 minutes, she’s painstakingly pasted sequins, stars, and feathers onto a mask. Her final product is a colorful, delicately adorned creation. She is happy with her work, as is evident from her ear-to-ear grin.
People are proud when they earn others’ respect and meet their own goals. Pride fosters continued commitment to behaving appropriately and achieving high standards. Pride motivates people to share their accomplishments with others. Encourage children to identify things that make them proud. Share in their joy when they accomplish something meaningful for them.
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