I know what you’re thinking…my cute little guy just kicked over his bucket of blocks, threw them at the dog and started screaming at the top of his lungs, how can feelings be fun?? You are right-- the behaviors and words connected to upset feelings are NOT FUN. As teachers, grownups helping little ones, parents, aunties, uncles and grandparents these moments are far from the ones we want for our memory book.
Several years back when I was counseling children in an elementary school, the principal sent a five year old girl down to see me. She had walked up to one of her classmates, hauled off and given her a pretty solid kick in the shins—apparently for no reason. She arrived with arms crossed and lips sealed and was ‘not in the mood to talk.’ I went with that, and offered her the MyFeelings!(tm) minis to play with. As she played with the minis, she moved them around and started pounding on the sad mini with the mad mini. Playfully going along with this and have a little fun, I mused “uh oh, that mad one doesn’t like those sad feelings.” She pounded harder, and eventually was able to tell me what she had been mad, sad and scared about.
During this, I was careful to notice my own feelings too, stay calm and try not to rush her. After several minutes I asked her what she’d tell other kids who want to feel better when they’re having tough feelings. She said “tell them to let the feelings out so they’ll have more love.” I didn’t do anything elaborate, just gave her the time to think about her feelings and sort them out. Sorting out feelings helps a child – with your help – think about what else they could do when the feelings get so big. For little ones, reminding them to ask for help is at the top of my list of skills to teach!
Science: Children need to label basic emotions at age 3, 4, or 5 about when they are naming colors. This helps a child learn to problem solve and self-regulate.
So remember, taking the time to coach a child about the difference between emotions, words and actions can “make feelings fun”. The feeling didn’t ‘do anything wrong.’ The choice just wasn’t the best. We all want to be a good emotions coach to our little ones, coaching them to handle their emotions leads to better problem solving and an ability to calm down on their own. For today, tomorrow and as often as you remember, reassure your child that the feelings they have are always okay – and we’re here to help them make a different choice. Feelings CAN be fun!!
Strategy: Tell your child “It’s okay to feel __ma__________, remember to ask me for help!”
If you like these ideas and are looking for tools so ‘feelings can be fun’ you might like these: