Experiencing emotions is a vital part of being human. Emotions give us information, motivate us and prepare us to act, and give others information about how we are feeling. However, emotions can also be difficult to handle, particularly when the intensity of the emotion grows beyond what we can easily manage, as well as when they are more painful emotions like sadness, anxiety, shame, or guilt. When painful emotions become very intense (i.e., become “big” emotions), they tend to lead to impulsive behaviors, hard to control emotional thoughts, and intense physical sensations, such as tight muscles, an upset stomach, or a headache. Learning to manage painful, big emotions and particularly, to catch and soothe those emotions before they get too big, is an important ability for children to develop. Read on for tips on how to teach your child to handle their big emotions. Name and Normalize Big Emotions We all experience emotions and they are important and helpful - even when they are not easy to experience. Teach your child that we all experience emotions and that they are important and helpful - even when they are not easy to experience. Brainstorm together about the emotions they experience and how they might be helpful. For example, feeling a little nervous before a test motivates them to study. Feeling guilty after saying something unkind reminds them to be more gentle in the future. Crying when they are sad lets an adult know that they might need help or want to talk. If your child is not sure how to tell the difference between emotions, link emotions to body sensations. For example, anger often shows up as heat in the body while anxiety often causes tight muscles including tense, hunched shoulders and fists or a clenched jaw. The next time your child is experiencing an emotion, gently ask where they are feeling it in their body. This, along with practice noticing and naming emotions, is a foundational step of emotion awareness and regulation. Teach Coping Skills Teach your child a few simple coping skills to soothe their big emotions. It is helpful to match the skill to the intensity of the emotion being experienced as different skills help with different levels of emotional intensity. Kids also often benefit from a visual, such as an emotional thermometer where small (i.e., less intense) emotions are on the bottom part of the thermometer, medium are in the middle, and big are on the top. A helpful coping skill for when emotions are less intense or “small,” is to practice helpful “self-talk.” This skill can be adapted depending on the situation, but the basic approach is to acknowledge that you are having a tough time and to encourage or coach yourself as you would a friend in the situation. For example, if your child is struggling with homework they might say “this is really hard! At the same time, I’m doing my best and can ask my teacher for help tomorrow.” As another example,Read More
In honor of National Physical Fitness and Sports Month, we're reposting a piece from July 2020. It features books that get kids moving. Physical activity, whether it’s playing a sport, dancing, walking the dog, gardening, or riding a bike, can reduce stress and improve mood! Magination Press offers books for young children and teens that encourage physical movement or exercise. Bee Calm: The Buzz on Yoga by Frank J. Sileo, PhD, illustrated by Claire Keay, introduces kids to beginning yoga poses such as Mountain, Chair, Airplane, Cobra, and more. A note to parents and caregivers provides suggestions for introducing children to yoga and instructions for the poses in the story. Ready to start feeling better? Move and groove your way into a better mood! Move Your Mood! by Brenda S. Miles, PhD, and Colleen A. Patterson, MA, illustrated by Holly Clifton-Brown, invites kids to explore their emotions through movement and introduces the idea that moving our bodies affects the way we feel inside. A note to parents, caregivers, and teachers provides suggestions for how to use the book with your child, and additional ideas for teaching your child about emotions. These books for teens provide more comprehensive guides toward self-care: Depression: A Teen's Guide to Survive and Thrive by Jacqueline B. Toner, PhD, and Claire A. B. Freeland, PhD, draws on Cognitive Behavior Therapy to help teens understand depression, and provides practical information on actions they can take to start feeling better. How to Feel Good: 20 Things Teens Can Do by Tricia Mangan, MA, offers strategies for teens to use to slow down and and pay attention to how they feel and what they think about themselves. Suggestions of "ways to be kind to your whole self" explore how caring for your physical body can improve your mood. Getting moving is a great way for kids and families to spend time together and feel better. If your child seems especially anxious or you are concerned about depression, please seek professional help. APA can help you find a psychologist near you.Read More
Help Your Little Worrier Stay Calm
A Feel Better Book for Little Worriers helps children understand what worries are and what to do when they are feeling worried. From verses that demonstrate body awareness to coping strategies for kids, A Feel Better Book is not only enjoyable for children to read, but also helpful for both children and caregivers. To learn more about how you can help your child cope with worries, check out our article Stress Management Exercises for Anxious Children.
May is Mental Health Month. Parents and caregivers help support children’s mental health year-round. Our expert authors provide helpful stories on a variety of topics that can bring insight and understanding. Here are eight Magination Press titles related to children’s mental health including books about anxiety, depression, trauma, grief, and therapy. Something Very Sad Happened: A Toddler's Guide to Understanding Death by Bonnie Zucker, PsyD When a loved one dies, it can be hard to know how to explain it to a young child, particularly if you are grieving the loss yourself. Sensitively written and gently illustrated, Something Very Sad Happened explains death in developmentally appropriate terms for two- and three-year-old children. It reassures the child that it is okay to feel sad, and that love never dies. A Note to Parents and Caregivers provides more information about how to talk about death, answer your child's questions, and maintain your connection throughout the grieving process. “Essential, powerful, and psychologically researched resource to equip adults to model healthy grieving and help children at this age with loss.” —Booklist A Terrible Thing Happened: A Story for Children Who Have Witnessed Violence or Trauma by Margaret M. Holmes Sherman Smith saw the most terrible thing happen. At first he tried to forget about it, but soon something inside him started to bother him. He felt nervous for no reason. Sometimes his stomach hurt. He had bad dreams. And he started to feel angry and do mean things, which got him in trouble. Then he met Ms. Maple, who helped him talk about the terrible thing that he had tried to forget. Now Sherman is feeling much better. This gently told and tenderly illustrated story is for children who have witnessed any kind of violent or traumatic episode, including physical abuse, school or gang violence, accidents, homicide, suicide, and natural disasters such as floods or fire. An afterword by Sasha J. Mudlaff written for parents and other caregivers offers extensive suggestions for helping traumatized children, including a list of other sources that focus on specific events. Hear A Terrible Thing Happened read aloud. What to Do When Fear Interferes: A Kid's Guide to Overcoming Phobias by Claire A. B. Freeland, PhD, and Jacqueline B. Toner, PhD Lots of kids are a little afraid of some things, like heights or spiders. But some kids are so afraid that it stops them from having fun. Does this sound like your child? What to Do When Fear Interferes guides children and their parents through overcoming phobias using strategies and techniques based on cognitive-behavioral principles. This interactive self-help book is the complete resource for educating, motivating, and empowering children to overcome their fears — so they can blast off to new adventures! “The straight forward approach in this book helps children identify their triggers, false beliefs and how to face the fear those beliefs cause.” —Oregon Coast Youth Book Preview Center You Are Your Strong by Danielle Dufayet, PhD Soothing and empowering, You Are Your Strong reassures kids thatRead More