Emotions aren't good or bad, they are what our body uses to help us understand.
They alert us to feelings of stress or anxiety, helping us make the decision to slow down or re-explore our options.
They can help remind us about what we need, a hug, a recharge, alone time...
They are the tools our body uses to bring our brain's attention to something. When you are experiencing strong feelings step back a moment and try to determine how you are really feeling, what your emotions are trying to tell you.
Emotions aren't always that easy to understand. We can cry when we are sad and we can cry when we are happy. We can feel angry when we are actually just hungry or tired. Many adults still struggle with understanding what the emotions are really telling them, so you can imagine how much of a struggle it can be for kids to understand their emotions.
Expressing how we feel is not only important to acknowledge our emotions ourselves but also to help children learn how to express how they feel. Showing them you understand them is another great way to help them learn to express their feelings. "I can see that you are sad about that and I am sorry that is how you are feeling."
Emotions can be complicated and it isn't always easy to talk about them with kids. The Emotional Animal Alphabet series was created with the help of kids so the situations and the feelings are very relatable. The books allow kids to connect and be able to share their feelings when something similar happened to them.
These books have proven to inspire conversation about emotions felt by the character, and by the reader themselves.
"These are amazing books, the kids absolutely LOVE them!! Danica has them all lined up along her top bunk♡ she puts herself in every story and never fails to discuss that valuable lesson tucked inside each and every book♡"
All 26 books are available individually or as a set through the Quite a Character bookstore
Empathy Elephant is a good one to start the conversation about understanding emotions.
Self-regulation isn't about hiding feelings, it is about managing feelings so that they don't overwhelm and interfere with daily life. Feelings are important, big feelings are okay to have but it is important to learn to understand what the feelings are telling us about what we need.
Kids need to know that what they feel is valid (even if it isn't how we would react). Then, they need to be taught to dig deeper into how they are feeling to understand what that emotion is telling them about what they need.
Outbursts from children, and sometimes adults, are often due to not understanding what we really need. And when we aren't getting what we need our reactions are not easily dealt with.
For example if we have had a frustrating day at work, we aren't being made to feel that what we are doing is important, and then someone cuts us off in traffic - our immediate response is frustration and anger - because it is adding to the feelings of unimportance.
A child obviously doesn't have the same traffic scenario, but they may feel unimportant if you have been busy on the phone, or doing the dishes, or caring for a sick sibling. Their outburst could be because they just need a hug and a little bit of attention to confirm that they are important. Their reaction is not because you are doing something wrong, it is because they are needing something and they don't know how to understand that need or express it properly.
Be sure to talk about emotions, to use words that children can mimic to help express themselves, and to look deeper at the emotions to help you and them understand what they really mean.
"We try so hard to hide everything we’re really feeling from those who probably need to know our true feelings the most. People try to bottle up their emotions, as if it’s somehow wrong to have natural reactions to life."
It is important to learn some tools to help us recognize, understand and deal with our feelings. Check out the blog post Feeling Anxious for tips to deal with anxiety.