Learning that we are in charge of our emotions and have the power to decide how to handle them is the most important lesson of social and emotional development. It is the foundation for every other social and emotional skill we develop, and yet, so often children (and adults) struggle profoundly in understanding this concept.
This Monstering Emotions activity inspired by The Color Monster helps children develop this important skill by breaking it down into the four simple steps of awareness.
This Monstering Emotions activity, inspired by The Color Monster, helps children develop this important skill set and have fun at the same time. Like the Color Monster in the story, kids need to be able to identify their feelings. Too often, kids (and grownups) jump over the process of identifying how they genuinely feel and dive headfirst into a reaction.
It’s kind of like holding a hot potato.
Pretend the potato is an uncomfortable emotion; the first thing human beings tend to do is toss that hot potato straight to someone else. Now someone else is the victim of our potato launch. What else am I supposed to do, you may ask. I don’t want to get burned. Exactly. But throwing your burning or uncomfortable emotions at someone else is not your only option.
How about you put the potato down? Just set it down on the ground for just a moment and take a deep breath and formulate a plan about what you want to do with that messy, uncomfortable feeling. You can also just wait a beat until the potato cools down and then pick it up and do something more productive with it than launching it at your friends and loved ones (or whoever happens to be closest to you). Setting it down and take a moment to name that emotion and observe it is the first step.
When your kids don’t want to talk about it
Often, when I speak, I hear parents say my kid doesn’t want to talk about emotions or shuts down when I try to ask how they are feeling. Yep, because it’s uncomfortable. As humans, we generally don’t embrace uncomfortable. The solution is to practice more often, model talking about your feeling and emotions often and when that little sliver of emotional communication presents itself, do not shut it down, even if it makes you uncomfortable. You have to keep in mind the goal is to increase communication and identifying emotions. Grab the Freebie
Free printable to help your child identify and name their emotions.DOWNLOAD
We have encouraged our kids to speak and identify emotions, even if it’s not what we want to hear. The fact that they are using their voices and their words to communicate is a win. We have to be open to recognizing that while their communication style might not be our desired tone or volume level, the fact that they are identifying and expressing is important. We can work on tone and volume, but if the expression isn’t there to begin with, those emotions start bottling up, and just like in The Color Monster, they become a knotted mess of emotions that the child can no longer discern or understand. It is much easier to work one knot out of a rope than pull apart several different ropes tied together.
Once your child starts to develop an emotional vocabulary, then helping them learn to respond instead of react to those emotions and having tools in their tool kit to help them when they do have emotions they need help with can give your child the success skills they need in helping master self-regulation.
Four steps to helping kids with emotions
- Ask them to identify their feelings.
- Give them permission to express their feelings.
- Teach how to put the potato down and hold on and feel the emotions so they can choose how to respond instead of reacting.
- Teach them tools to help them calm and refocus and work with them to develop a toolkit and plan they can use when they need it.
Learning not to throw your potato at others takes awareness and practice. You can start to give your kids the tools they need by modeling the four steps to helping kids with emotions yourself.
(This article by The Rooted Family originally appeared here.)