Helping Children Manage Their Feelings
It seemed clear to the teachers that Seth was unable to keep his strong feelings from overwhelming him so much that he could not control his actions. According to Stanley Greenspan (1997), a child psychiatrist who has studied children's emotional development extensively, one of a child's earliest tasks is to learn to integrate feelings into a sense of self—to know that a person can move from playful joy to anger, and back to joy, all while remaining the same person (pp. 68–73). Here are some suggestions for helping children recognize and understand their feelings:
- Give children words for their feelings. "You're angry because Josh took the wagon you wanted." "It looks like you're feeling sad about saying goodbye to your mom this morning." "I can see that you're so excited about spending the weekend at your dad's that it is hard for you to settle down for a nap."
- Incorporate knowledge about feelings into the curriculum. Read books about feelings in general or about children coping with particular feelings. Use puppets or dolls to present vignettes of common situations, such as a child talking a toy from another, and ask children how they think the character might feel.
- Encourage children to reflect on their own feelings. For example, help them make personal books with pages captioned, "I felt sad when....., I felt happy when...." and so on. Be sure to include the full range of feelings, both positive and negative. Children can illustrate each page with a drawing, or you can take digital photographs of them acting out the facial expressions corresponding to each feeling. Children will enjoy looking at themselves in a mirrow as they ty out these expressions
But children need more than a name for the powerful feelings that seem to take over their bodies. Children—and adults—need to learn to manage those emotions so that they don't become slaves to their own passions. Another psychologist, Daniel Goleman (1995), argues that this type of emotional intelligence can play a larger role than conventional I.Q. in one's happiness and success in life. Adults help children manage strong feelings by removing insofar as possible the circumstances likely to trigger outbursts and by teaching children specific strategies for calming themselves when things happen to upset them.
© ______ 2009, Merrill, an imprint of Pearson Education Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The reproduction, duplication, or distribution of this material by any means including but not limited to email and blogs is strictly prohibited without the explicit permission of the publisher.
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