Helping your children manage BIG feelings is about helping them identify how they feel and how to transform or calm their feelings.
Every person, whether a child or an adult, is well-served to develop calming strategies for moments of emotional discomfort, sensory over-stimulation and feeling management. As we have discussed before, many children exhibit skill deficits that underlie their behavioral challenges. It is valuable to understand the neurological components of these skill deficits and what to do to help your children and yourself be more skillful regarding the management of sensory stimulation, sensory input and feelings.
Sometimes children have feelings they experience intensely, but do not understand. You can help your child learn to modulate their feelings better if you take the step to help them identify how they feel, when and why. More on feelings and the brain can be found in Chapter 8 The Caveman and The Thinker in my first book, The Family Coach Method.
HOW IT WORKS
Imagine that a child climbs anger (this can also be energy or anxiety) mountain when things do not go their way. Some children escalate very quickly. Other children can self-regulate and walk down the mountain without letting their anger become uncontrolled. Some children hang out near the top of Anger Mountain, feeling agitated, frustrated, anxious and annoyed.
These children need a method to:
1. Identify their feelings,
2. Recognize what sends them up the mountain (siblings, hearing “No,” academic tests etc.) and
3. How to calm down and climb down.
Help your child “Climb down Anger Mountain” by drawing a huge mountain on a large sheet of white paper or poster board. Talk with your child about activities we do at different stages of the mountain. Let your child draw thoughts, feelings or experiences on different levels of Anger Mountain. Use different colors to denote different levels of anger:
Calm = blue
Having fun = yellow
Getting excited = Orange
Over the top = Red
When we draw “Anger Mountain,” we write down what lead to our feelings, what we thought about and how we felt. Then we write things that calm us down. These are like rescue activities for your child’s brain. Things he can do to calm down when the going gets rough.
On the left side of the mountain we write down experiences that make us feel calm (blue), frustrated (yellow), angry (orange) and furious (red). On the right side of the mountain we write down calming skills that could help us climb back down Anger Mountain before we explode. CLICK ON THE PRINTABLE ABOVE AND PRINT IT FOR FREE.
With younger children, I tell them that their feelings are like a choo-choo train. Their train is happiest when it is “in the station.” When their train is in the station, they feel calm, they enjoy playing, they have fun in family activities and they enjoy their friends. But, sometimes things happen that take our trains out of the station. A friend breaks our sand castle, or our mom says we have to put away our toys, or our sister calls our artwork “dumb.” This makes our train rev up and zoom out of the station and up the mountain.
Then we make a list of calming thoughts, words and actions that can help us stay off Anger Mountain and keep our train in the station. On the right side of Anger Mountain, your child can put pictures or words that would help him remain calm and cope with the situations constructively so that anger does not escalate. It doesn’t have to about trains in a station…it could be flowers in the garden, fishies in the ocean. Any metaphor that suits your family will do. What you are doing for your child is giving him the thoughts, words and actions he can’t find on his own. Try this at home or in school, make it your own! Let us know how it goes @drlynnekenney on twitter or PINTEREST.