Today, we looked at a book I had picked up in a charity shop, called How Do You Feel? It is a beautifully simple book introducing feelings, and some situations that might evoke them, and a very useful basis for discussion. I feel it is worth a blog post, as I definitely understand my children better for our conversations around it.
First of all, we read the book through. Then we went back through the pages and talked about the different emotions. L and N practised expressing the feeling in front of a mirror, and to each other, and I took photos of them to print out and use again. I could see the difference in their ages and understanding here – N had difficulty in labelling some more complicated secondary emotions (proud, shy), and with these feelings her faces all looked the same, which I wouldn’t have known without trying this. L had no trouble at all.
I think next we might play this as a game of charades, acting out different feelings while the others guess which one. It seems to me that the feelings N had difficulty with are the ones we don’t talk about as much, and hopefully making a conscious effort to label them for her and with her will help her recognise them and understand the terms. I think we could also talk about degrees of feeling – really sad as opposed to a bit sad, and for L introduce some more descriptive terms and synonyms.
We talked about the things that make us happy, sad, angry, proud, etc – and I learnt the following things that I didn’t already know about my children:
- Both L and N denied ever feeling shy, and saw it as a negative emotion, the opposite of brave. “I’m not shy because I’m a big boy” – L; “I’m not shy, I’m friendly” – N.
- Writing makes N cross – “because the letters won’t go right, and I go like this…” (bangs table) – I hadn’t realised she was feeling frustrated by trying to form letters, something she voluntarily practises a lot.
- “When someone hurts me I don’t feel sad, I feel angry” – L
We focused on angry feelings in particular (my ulterior motive for all of this was to deal with some lashing out that has been happening) and made a list of things we can do when we are angry, apart from hitting. They came up with all of the following for themselves, which I was surprised and impressed by:
- Tell a grown up
- Ask for help
- Stamp my foot
- Say “no” and “don’t do that to me” in a loud voice
- Go and find someone else to play with
- Say “I’m angry”
- Cuddle a toy dog (this is N’s toy dog who goes pretty much everywhere)
It did surprise me that such young children already had these resources and coping strategies, and hopefully just need to be reminded and encouraged to use them (as we all do!).
We used the aforementioned dog, and a kangaroo to act out a “fighting” type scenario and the possible outcomes. L and N both really enjoyed this and it was clearly something they related to. I started the game – with one toy pushing the other, and L finished it in two ways: –
- The second toy hits back, they fight, and the teacher sits them both on the naughty chair
- the second toy tells a grown up and asks for help, the first toy goes to the naughty chair and the second finds someone else to play with.
I really like the fact that he worked out for himself the benefits of not hitting back, and hope that this game might help it stick in their minds, especially if we repeat the role play regularly, and prompt them to remember.
We did try role playing the scenario involving people, but it led to some enthusiastic pushing, a bit of crying and a real-life illustration of the above…
This has definitely inspired me to make a concerted effort to talk about feelings beyond happy/sad, and reminded me that since they are going to experience complicated feelings, they need to be given the language and tools to express them, and healthy ways of managing them. We will definitely be doing more of this.