You will hear about big feelings on this blog. You will see what big feelings look like on this blog. Big feelings can be terrifying, maddening, overwhelming for both the adult and child.
For most young children, big feelings are usually ones of anger, frustration, and/or desperation. Chicka Chicka has big feelings when I am not doing what she wants or even (gasp!) ignoring her. Boom Boom has big feelings when he is denied something- if I say no, or take a toy away, or he can’t go outside. O how the world ends when that little boy can’t go outside. I get big feelings when I am frustrated, or tired, or hungry, or all of the above.
When my children have big feelings, I absolutely have to take a step back. I think it’s our nature as human beings to match other people’s emotions. If I don’t take a deep breath, or pause for a second before responding, I am much more prone to raising my voice or doling out a punishment that maybe wasn’t completely warranted (20-minute timeout, anyone?)
So how do we avoid these situations? How do we avoid those big feelings? The fact is, you can’t. Big feelings happen.
But don’t despair. There are several ways to proactively make those big feelings not feel so big.
The first thing to work on with big feelings is to identify them. Have you ever tried to describe to a child what being angry feels like? Sure, you can make a mad face and stomp your feet, but that actual sensation is tricky to put into words.
Luckily, Trace Moroney has done the work for us in his book “When I’m Feeling Angry.” It sums it up as follows:
“When I’m feeling angry, I feel like there is a boiling hot volcano in my tummy that is about to explode!”
If that isn’t the most beautiful description of anger ever. Paired with a cute little bunny. Trace Moroney has a whole series of big feelings books that include Angry, Happy, Sad, and Scared.
Reading books like these are a great way to teach a child how to identify emotions. Because, let’s face it, even adults aren’t real great at identifying emotions, especially when we’re feeling four or five at once.
Another way to work on identifying emotions is to have visual examples of the four main emotions: mad, sad, scared, and happy. You could turn these into a fun matching game, a “find the feeling” game, or use them in conjunction with a book to identify emotions as they change throughout the story. Just remember that in all these scenarios, the pictures and the feelings need to be simple and obvious.
This will take time. Big feelings are blurry and intangible. But finding external sources that teach children how to identify emotions is so crucial.
Stay tuned as I start talking about how to teach children to identify emotions within themselves.