If you’re active on Facebook, were you happy to discover new ways we could respond to someone’s posts? Have you paused over the “like” choice long enough to sometimes choose love, ha-ha, wow, sad, or angry instead of like?

In the past, I was sometimes frustrated that “like” was my only reaction choice. It didn’t always fit well. In the past week, I have sometimes reacted with the new options. What about you?

It’s still an imperfect system, of course. Just the other day, I wanted to react to someone’s update with “like” because we were being asked to pray and “sad” for the reason I’d be praying. This, of course, isn’t allowed. But, I do like the improvement.

Do you know what’s more important than responding with an appropriate emoticon on Facebook?

  • Sometimes use words in a comment on Facebook to let your friends know what we’re really thinking and feeling about their updates.
  • Sometimes use more than emoticons when texting. Taking time to use words to express our joy usually means much more than texting back a smiling face.
  • Healthy emotional responses during conversations in real time. Saying “That makes me sad” so friends can hear our tone of voice and an encouraging conversation might ensue usually ministers more hope. This might mean we call friends rather than just reacting on Facebook. I also think hearing a friend laugh with us and cry with us is very powerful. Are we still willing to do this? It takes time and vulnerability.
  • What would you add to this list?

Let me suggest something else. If you’re a parent, please teach your children about emotional responses within conversations. Emotions can be overwhelming and kids can feel unsure. For instance, it can be awkward to laugh when silent support would have been more appropriate.

You can use emoticons to teach children. They can point to a smiling face or a sad face you draw or they paint to let you know how they’re feeling. Then, teach them to put words to their feelings. Then expand to other feelings such as surprise, anger, and offended. Make sure you model this well. Respond emotionally with feelings and words.

Partly because of social media and texting, our kids may struggle more than we did with identifying and communicating feelings. Also, many kids have told me their parents aren’t available for conversations and connections. This is another reason emotional vocabulary and expressing feelings may be stunted.

In No More Perfect Kids, on page 99, Jill Savage and I wrote about two main reasons to help children understand their feelings:

Ask kids how they’re feeling about things. This communicates you care about their heart. Because feelings drive behaviors, we need to know about the feelings.

Jill and I feel so strongly about how important this is that we included an appendix with 141 words used to express these emotions: happy, content, excited, sad, confused, hurt, angry, afraid, brave, doubtful, anxious, surprised. You might want to check it out.

Children benefit when they know we care about their hearts. You benefit when you know people care about yours, right? And, because feelings greatly influence behaviors, they need to be understood and talked about. When children are obedient and when they’re not, look below the service of their behavior to what their heart experienced and is experiencing. Talk about that. It will benefit them in many ways, including their ability to use emoticons when they’re old enough to text and be on social media sites like Facebook.