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Wednesday, February 1, 2017

E is for Emotions

When you work with children you aren't just teaching them academics. You are helping them learn how to be a human being that is part of a community. For my kids, our community is our classroom and hopefully the things they are learning in class will go with them out into the world.
     Talking about emotions is kind of a big deal with 3, 4, and 5 year olds. It's pretty obvious that controlling emotions isn't necessarily their strong suit and that's where we come in. When talking to little ones about emotions there are some important truths to help them understand.

1. Feeling emotions is totally normal. Everyone feels sad sometimes, everyone feels angry sometimes, it is normal.
2. Recognizing how you are feeling is a huge deal. As adults, we can teach our kids empathy when we help them see that we recognize how they are feeling and help them through it. My son Brandon was crying during carpet time. So we stopped to talk about it as a class. Why are you crying? "We put away his blocks when it was time to clean up and he wasn't done." Did you know we would clean up even if he wasn't done? "Yes" I asked the other kids, what are things you do when you are feeling sad to cheer yourself up? Madden sang a cute song about taking 4 deep breaths. Jaxon said he goes to his room to cry and then comes out to play when he's done. I said I like to get hugs or sometimes listen to music. Then we asked Brandon if he has a favorite song we could sing to cheer him up. So we rocked out to Dr. Jean's "Bear Hunt" and he felt better.
2. What we do when we are feeling those emotions is important. Yes we feel angry, but is hitting someone okay? Nope. Is there something you can do to help you calm down? Take deep breaths, run around outside, kick a soccer ball outside, talk to a friend . . . This is our job, to give them tools to keep in their tool belt that they can pull out when they are struggling.
      One of my kids especially struggles with keeping her emotions in check. So we have worked on putting tools her tool belt.  When she is upset I can use key words to talk to her about choosing a strategy to help her through those hard times. Here's what we talk about - balloon breaths (breath in deep, puff out your cheeks and blow the air out slowly like you are blowing up a balloon), belly breaths (breathing deeply and slowly so your belly goes in and out - in the nose and out the mouth), get a hug (it's usually a pretty long hug), lay in bed and snuggle your favorite stuffed animal, put on headphones and listen to music (we have a kid friendly mp3 player with a playlist on it of their favorite, appropriate songs. This one is HUGE for kids who can get out of control. On a side note, this also helps get them going on doing their chores too), are we being flexible, are we trusting mom that everything will be okay, or read a book. It's not perfect and we have been working on it for years, adding new strategies to fit her age, but it has helped improve the melt downs and stress.

  We spent some time in class talking about emotions. We discussed what emotions are. We listed different kinds of emotions. We read Today I Feel Silly by Jamie Lee Curtis.
Image result for today i feel silly

Then we used my new favorite activity to explore emotions more deeply. I found this amazing make a face toy at Mr.Printables.com. We took turns making our face show different emotions. First I made a few faces and the kids talked about what emotion they are seeing. Then, we had two friends come up. One friend made a face and the other friend changed the paper face to match. It was really fun and a really great way to explore our emotions.
He couldn't quite do mad without smiling. 
You should definitely give it a try. It might just be so much fun that you find a single tear of joy rolling down your face. Have a great afternoon! 

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