A discussion on children’s emotional world, prompted by “Stories of Planet Sentia”

vktoons, apart from The Treasure at the roots of the Tree of Earth is also preparing already its’ continuous presence and there someone would find high ranked the pre-school animated series titled Stories of Planet Sentia. It is a series about children’s emotions, of accepting them and cope with them.

vktoons will collaborate with scientists – pedagogues with experience and knowledge on the subject. So, we asked from our collaborators, Aleka Koumeli and  Victoria Tsoukala to answer some questions regarding the scientific and educational part of the series.

QUESTION; Taking in mind your educational experience, what are your conclusions about the emotional world of the children and if they express it?

Aleka Koumeli; Pre-school kids feel, experience all of the emotions., probably more intense than we adults do. Some times they find it difficult to understand what they feel, the cause of the feeling and even more – of course – to handle these feelings, especially those who have a negative sign.

In that age, the way they express themselves is more related to the environment they come from – the family – since parents are the first emotional models (emotional patterns) and mainly via imitation kids reproduce behaviors which they “learn” within the family.

Victoria Tsoukala; Children, as any person, have a rich emotional world. Usually, they don’t express their feelings verbally, but through behavior and action.

I.e., when they feel happy, they laugh loudly, they clap their hands. When they feel gratitude, they give tender hugs or a little hand-made present. When they feel disappointment, they are gloomy or they are turning upon their selves.

QUESTION; Which paragons do you think/realize that prevent a kid to accept and express feelings?

Aleka Koumeli; As I’ve already mentioned, the difficulty of the situation is related to the young age of the kids, which as toddlers try to self-determine, to feel as individual members of a smaller or greater community, to become independent from the family environment, to find similarities and differences to their classmates and to chose a company as well as behaviors that fit them. Of course, the most important part is the culture we have as a society towards the emotional “education” of the children. There is a kind of compulsion in Greek family, a “decorum” that provides good and bad behavior, that values i.e. anger as a negative emotion that the kid should not feel. That occurs even when we try to protect children from unpleasant feelings in order to protect it from feeling sad. Automatically we eventually make an evaluative distinction of emotions and we teach children that they should not feel some of them. In pre-school education since a few years via the curricula there is a try to solve this and emotional education runs through all the sectors of the curricula, something I value as something positive. Of course, considering beyond the curricula, probably it is difficult for us, the teachers to work on that, since we also must educate ourselves in accepting and operate our emotions, in order to secure the pedagogic environment in the classroom for the appliance of the emotional education. Of course, this becomes difficult also because of insufficient training and because of the crowded school classes in which you cannot achieve a quality relation with each student individually.

Victoria Tsoukala; Family is the first emotional school. If within a family occur tensions and conflicts, these effect negatively the emotional balance and, therefor, the expression of emotions. It is not unusual that parents but also teachers don’t express their emotions. I.e. we ask a kid to stop doing something that annoys us without looking in his/her eyes or we say “I love you” without hugging the kid.

QUESTION; What are the dangers children face if they “learn” to suppress their emotions?

Aleka Koumeli; According to W.H.O., the main causes of death but also of morbidity around  the globe are not contagious diseases but diseases related to the modern way of life. Since for most of them there is no cure, the only way is prevention through the change of behavior and way of living. In Greece these last years there is a tremendous increase of consumption of sedatives and antidepressants. Depression appears in smaller ages now. According to a research on 713 teens age 15-18, 26,2% of them shows signs of depression. Bullying in schools has also become a major issue. Of course, all the above are also social phenomena. It is proven that with a proper early intervention and “teaching” the children to appreciate their feelings, to differentiate them, to understand them, to express them in a productive way, we could avoid future negative behaviors like addiction to substances, school failure, depression, difficulties at having healthy relations as an adult.

Victoria Tsoukala; If a kid “learns” to suppress his/her feelings, he/she will find difficulties in having healthy relations with kids of the same age, his/her family or even as an adult. Moreover, suppressing emotions could lead to psychological problems or to depression.

QUESTION; Do you think animation can help children – and perhaps their parents? – to view their emotional world more freely? And if so, why?

Aleka Koumeli; I believe animation can become a tool in the hands of the teachers for the hard work of emotional education. Besides, it is something extremely familiar to the kids, they love it and can through it can be taught behaviors and stances. It could become an opportunity for questioning, for discussion in the classroom as well as within families on the way we should face ourselves and the others, on the way we can solve conflicts and finally to have a harmonic relation with us and the others.

Victoria Tsoukala; Animation is something children love.  Surely children can identify themselves with a hero of an animated movie that promotes the expression of emotions, to see through a funny way how heroes express feelings, how they respond to “spurs” and imitate them. On the other hand, parents can understand concrete examples on how kids express themselves and then urge them and guide them to express their emotions.