Abílio Oliveira and Ana Leão

Children are deeply sensitive to changes within themselves or in the family or social environment. The way how they perceive and express emotions or feelings, when interacting with parents, teachers, colleagues or others, has great influence on their personality and development at different levels - physical, cognitive, emotional, moral and social. This empirical study is framed on the theory of social representations. We aimed to understand the way how children (N=160), in preschool age, 5-6 years old, represent sadness and joy. The data was gathered using drawings made by the children representing a happy/sad person and free association of words, derived from questions that were individually made to them. For instance, what did you want to represent in your drawing of a happy/sad person? What can a person do when he/she is feeling sad/happy? or What is it for you to be or feel sad/happy? The drawings were interpreted by the researchers, and all the children were listened to about what they had represented or drawn - all their answers were noted and, later, examined through the technique of factorial analysis of correspondences. The results showed a lot about the children’s feelings and the way they think and relate to their parents, friends and teachers. Girls expressed feelings more easily than boys-who revealed difficulty showing emotions, even about themselves. As one of the relevant findings, we found that stress, fatigue and the absence of parents, without time to be with children, are strongly reflected in how they feel. These findings also lead us to think about which is the most careful way to deal with children, contributing to their psychological, social wellbeing and for their learning.