Feelings and emotions during transition and uncertainty can be very difficult for children. With the Coronavirus on the news, at the forefront of our minds, and affecting some of our most basic routines, our kids know what’s up and maybe particularly anxious and uncertain just like you and me. Often kids express these emotions of fear and a sense of instability in some unpleasant ways. Melt-downs, outbursts, hyperactivity, and clinginess are all normal responses for worried kids. Helping your children name their feelings decreases the intensity of the emotion and allows kids to feel more connected to you. When kids feel more connected, they are better able to manage their reactions.
Adults are not exempt from these feelings of anxiety, fear, and worry. The disruption of your routine might be as emotionally disruptive to you as it is for your children, making it overwhelming to hear and address their concerns and fears. If you identify with this, these activities might be helpful for you to facilitate voicing your emotions to your self and taking a few minutes to find some comfort from the chaos. Be specific about where your feelings are stemming from, like boredom or worry. Be thankful for the gifts of daily connections that allow you to get precise and creative about how you will continue to care for yourself emotionally. The more grounded and calm you feel, the more capacity you will have for your kids and their feelings.
So this weekend, take some time to teach your kids how to name their emotions and talk about healthy ways to express them with these three activities. And keep your eyes out for more to come.
Counselor Keri at ConfidentCounselors.com has five great ideas about how to use play dough to help children engage their emotions. One of my favorites is the first one in her list: Building a Feelings Caterpillar.
Designate a feeling for each color of play dough. Have the children create balls for each feeling (you can have them make the size proportional to the amount of that feeling they are experiencing (ex: a big ball of happy, some medium balls of silly, scared, and tired, two small balls of sad and shy). This time is great to sneak in a few questions to raise their awareness. You might try something like how does your body feel when you are happy, angry, fearful, sad, silly? What helps you get that feeling out? What are things that cause you to feel that emotion?
What you need: paper and coloring utensils like markers, crayons, or colored pencils.
In this activity, draw a big heart on your paper. Have your child choose colors to represent their feelings. Colors can resonate with us for different reasons depending on the day, so do your best to allow them to assign meanings to the colors.
Draw how much of their heart is full of each emotion. Maybe they have a large amount of silliness, some medium amounts of boredom and anxiety, small amounts of excitement and motivation, and a tiny part of frustration. When I create my hearts, I like to include images or textures to my feelings like a sea of nervousness, spikey frustration, a blue heart or star to represent calm, a forest of peace, etc. Be Creative and Have fun while you’re exploring and naming the feelings in your heart! Younger children will only be able to use blocks of colors while older children may be ready to take their time and use some imagery to express themselves. The goal is to help them become aware of and name the emotions they are feeling at that moment.
What you need: 6 brads or fasteners, cardboard, craft knife, glue, needle and thread, printer
With this craft, kids get to make a face that expresses all sorts of emotions. You can have fun naming emotions and different degrees of emotions in that feeling family. In the fear family, there is surprise, terror, nervousness, worry, shock, etc. Distinguishing these feelings helps kids be specific about what they are feeling and why they are feeling that way.
If naming emotions is new for you, consider printing out or referencing a feelings wheel to use with these activities.
After you name your emotions or hear your children’s, make sure you validate them. Say things like, “It’s okay and normal for you to be feeling the way you are. It’s okay that you need some extra care and comfort right now. And it’s okay that your little ones need these things as well.”
For adults: For kids: