No matter what age we are, it is hard to think straight and make good decisions when we are feeling intense emotions. It is especially difficult for young children who may not be aware of the intensity of their feelings until they have reacted impulsively. Strong feelings of anger can lead to aggressive behavior and students may also struggle to make good choices when they experience other intense feelings like fear, jealousy or shame. Recognizing and labeling feelings in oneself and then intentionally calming down facilitates problem solving, self-management, and overall social-emotional competence.
Focusing on bodily signs of strong emotions helps students recognize distressing emotions that might require managing. As parents, we know our children’s buttons. Unfortunately, their siblings are also aware and are especially adept at pushing them! We can support our children’s development and skill by helping them ANTICIPATE when they might experience strong emotions. When we notice our kids experiencing strong emotions, we can REINFORCE their ability to notice what’s going on in their bodies with specific feedback such as: You seem really frustrated right now. Where do you feel the feeling in your body? Then you can model identifying physical clues in your own body that signal strong emotions and remind your child to do the same. Later, it is useful to have your child REFLECT on how thinking about their feelings helped them get back in control.
All students at Robert Frost have learned about how to calm down strong feelings using the three step model illustrated in the graphic below:
1. Stop (use a word as self-talk or visualize a symbol like a stop sign)
2. Name the strong feeling that is provoking the physiological response
4. Calm Down using belly breathing, counting and always remember to use positive self-talk.