Sunday, October 27, 2013

It's OK to have feelings

One of the awesome teachers I work with is letting me take over her morning meeting for 5 minutes a day to teach about emotions. The goal is to get the kids talking and thinking about their own emotions, identify when they feel a certain way, and then give them the skills they need to independently use calming strategies. It's a a small five minutes a day but so far it is providing good conversation. We'll see if we reach our lofty goal of seeing more self calming strategies in play.

The other day we were reading Llama, Llama Misses Mama and we were identifying all of Llama's BIG emotions. At one point, after we'd identified that Llama, Llama was sad I asked the kids if that was OK. All but one said no, it wasn't OK to be sad.
"What about angry?" I asked. Nope, not OK to be angry they told us.

When kids don't let themselves accept certain feelings- when they feel ashamed or guilty about having certain emotions- they never learn how to regulate their emotions. You have to know when you are angry and why you get angry to be able to say "Hey, I'm angry. This would be a good time to take a deep breath and calm myself down." Or, "Wow, I'm really frustrated. Maybe I shouldn't make this really big decision right now."

If we never let ourselves be angry then we don't give ourselves permission to make realistic decisions. Instead we end up making big decisions out of anger we don't let ourselves acknowledge we feel, we say things we don't mean to people we love, and we deny that we are hurt by someone else's statements, which only leads to building resentment. We all do it. It's not easy to tell ourselves "It's OK to be sad."

My daughter's daycare provider is excellent at this. When my daughter cries she doesn't try to distract her or instantly make her happy. She labels what she's feeling. She says, "You are sad. It's OK to be sad. This is what sad feels like." Then she walks my daughter through calming down. My daughter just turned two and she'll take calming breathes without being told to when she is upset. (I swear I work so my daughter can stay in daycare.)

I need to take a step back on my emotions lessons. Before we can get into what we do when we are angry we need to let the kids know that it is OK to be angry. Or sad. Or excited. Having them be able to verbally tell us what to do when angry/sad/excited isn't going to do them much good if they are angry and they can't even recognize it.

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