01 May Managing Feelings: Part Two
Oh glorious Monday! You heard me right, I am celebrating Monday today because 1) I love May. Bring me aaaaalllll the flowers. And 2) my husband is home. He was away on a 10 day trip, and I can’t lie, it wasn’t pretty around our house. Multiple screaming meltdowns, lots of take-out, and my house currently looks it was ravaged by wild animals. Which honestly, isn’t too far from the truth.
Appropriate, considering I was just talking about managing feelings. We had lots of them here. So you just need to know (AGAIN) that I am coming at you from the deep, muddy, sometimes painful, sometimes glorious trenches of motherhood. Sisters, you are not alone.
So let’s continue! If you are new here, I am talking about the book, How to Talk So Little Kids Will Listen: A survival guide to life with children. Written by parenting and education expert Johanna Faber, along with Julie King, it has proven invaluable to me as we navigate the twists and turns of pre-adolescent emotions.
Here is a quick recap of part 1 if you missed it. First – acknowledge their feelings with words. Teach them to name their feelings before they attempt manage them. And two, sit on those buts. Use phrases like “The problem is,” or, “Even though you know” to help them learn to manage emotions in the face of difficult choices.
Now, what if you have nonverbal children? Or other issues that make using words a difficult choice? How about giving them tools to communicate that open new avenues of expression.
Two: Acknowledge feelings with writing. This is particularly helpful when dealing with wants and desires that cannot be fulfilled. Carry pen and paper and make wish lists for the times you must say no. “Even though you know we didn’t come here to buy toys, it must be hard when you really want that _____. Why don’t we write it down on your list?” We have a modified version of this where I take pictures of items my daughter wants and we put in on her birthday/Christmas wish list. She is inevitably disappointed, but it heads off the meltdown. It is a way to acknowledge her feelings while limiting actions, both hers and mine.
Three: Acknowledge feelings with art. Art allows children to express feelings when they may not have the words or know the words to clearly articulate what is happening in their brain and body. Whether it is you doing the drawing, or the child, by drawing the feelings and then giving them names, you are still able to teach them how to identify them correctly. And sometimes, like for my oldest, the simple act of drawing helps her to focus her attention and emotion on something she can create and control. (She drew this picture when asked to draw her feelings about herself in a way that represents who she is.)
Four: Give in to fantasy what you cannot give in reality. Sometimes our children want the impossible. Or they are afraid of things that cannot be put off. This tool works wonders with my children as we are able to deflect temper tantrums with loads of silliness. Recently my daughter needed orthodontic work started and she was terrified before her appointment. My sister was on the phone with her and very seriously started to explain how she would be part robot now. The conversation spiraled from there, and before long she was giggling as we imagined all the silly ways that the metal would affect her mouth. This is one of my most effective tools in managing emotions that are often inappropriate for the situation, but not directed at me as an act of willful defiance or disobedience. I keep my cool, and we all end up laughing.
Acknowledge feelings with almost silent attention. Simple again, right? Just listen. We all want to jump in and problem solve, but sometimes, they just need a quick hmm, or oh, and the like to keep the storytelling going. If you have a verbal processor (this girl!), sometimes the act of talking through the feelings is enough to calm them down as they process the situation.
I would encourage you to check out this book as you learn ways to best communicate with your kiddos. I’ll leave you with a helpful reminder (from a different book) on where to begin …. you can’t parent from the red zone. Make sure your feelings are under control before you help them manage theirs!
Happy Monday. How do YOU talk to your kids?