Naming & Scaling
It’s important to help children understand that feeling lots of different emotions over the course of a day is normal. We don’t need to feel happy all the time. For example:
- You might wake up feeling worried about going to school, but also happy to be seeing friends, then angry at a friend who took your pen without asking, then worried again about a piece of school work and relaxed at the end of the day listening to music
- Some feelings last longer than others and some will feel stronger than others and these could be more difficult to control
- We need to help your child to recognise the variety of feelings they experience before they can control them
Being able to both name the feeling and notice where and how in your body you feel it is helpful when trying to prevent a feeling escalating and causing a behaviour reaction. For example, if your child begins to feel angry and they notice this early on in their body, like a stomach-churning feeling, they then can use strategies to manage this feeling before the anger grows and is harder to control. For other children, they may notice the beginnings of anger in the thoughts they have, such as “this is happening again, I hate it when Bob does this.” A positive self-talk statement could help here.
Your aim as a parent is to help your child recognise these feelings and use strategies to relieve the distress
So how we feel can depend on the thoughts we have or the actions we take and these will affect how we feel. Here are some examples of this:
|What You Do||What You Think||How You Feel|
|Stay alone in the bedroom||No-one wants to be my friend||Sad and Lonely|
|Go out with a friend||It’s always good fun when I’m out with Jim||Happy and excited|
|Play out with my sister||I like playing with my sister||Caring|
|Listening to music||This is cool. Just me||Relaxed and calm|
Being able to recognise emotions is an important skill for children so they can say how they feel and develop an emotional language, which in turn helps them manage their feelings and not be overwhelmed by them. To be able to say how you feel is both empowering and builds confidence. There are a number of steps involved:
- Recognise the changes in your body in response to feelings
- Name the feeling
- Try new strategies to manage that feeling
We’ve talked about managing our feelings in the Controlling Feelings guide, which is either doing something different or changing our thoughts. But sometimes just being able to sit and watch our thoughts go by without changing anything and knowing they will pass is enough. We don’t have to believe every thought and feeling that we have.
You could try the I Feel When activity or the Adrenaline Person.
Also, check out the Magic Box Toolkit for a great way to help your child deal with emotions and be the boss of their feelings!