5 Coping Strategies for Children With Big Feelings/Emotions
To say that life has changed since the current pandemic started would be a complete understatement. Life as we knew it no longer exists and we've been forced to find a new normal. My husband and I have been extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to work from home. For the first few weeks we felt like we were all adjusting quite well. You see, the one thing we always wished for was more time at home with our boys and we were finally granted this gift. However, never in a million years did we think that this is what it would look like or feel like. Something right out of a movie.
We have been “balancing” work, home, boys, meals, online learning, and everything in between for weeks on end. I quote “balancing” because I truly don’t believe that there is such a thing. We just do what we can when we can. Our boys seemed happier and that’s all that mattered, their health and their safety. However, our eldest who is turning six in July is a highly sensitive child. Since the day he was born we have always said that he is an old soul. Being so out of our regular routine triggered his anxiety and grief to crash down on us like a tsunami wave.
I will not share the details of his deepest emotions that were confided in with me. I do have to say that I am incredibly thankful that at the age of five he was able to be so vulnerable and express his thoughts and big “mixed up feelings” with me. I pray that he always feels comfort in approaching me and telling me anything that is on his mind. Nevertheless the truth is, nothing ever prepares a parent for moments like these. It is heart wrenching. Earth shattering. No parent wants to see their child hurting or struggling. The one thing that I have learned since losing my mother in law, his beloved Nonna, and living through grief was that it is not my job to take the hurt away. It is my job to love him, reassure him, allow him a safe space to acknowledge and work through his emotions and feelings. This is just the beginning, and life will continue to happen and children need the tools to navigate and cope through life’s happenings.
For the past few weeks I have made a more conscious effort to spend less time behind screens and more time engaging with our boys. We have also spent more time on reflection, mindfulness, and outdoor activities. I want to share what we have done with you because as a Kindergarten Teacher, I truly believe that the most important thing that we need to focus on right now is our mental health. When school resumes, children’s academic needs will be met because that’s what teachers do every year. Meet the needs of every child. What teachers cannot do, is reverse any mental health or emotional strain that children have endured. Here is what we have been doing that has worked for us and I believe has allowed our son to feel comfortable to share his deepest thoughts and feelings with me.
1. Mindful Activities
There are so many ways to engage in mindful activities and relax the mind, body, and soul. Some of our favourites include:
- Painting (including using our Buddha Board)
- Breathing and stretching (we love Cosmic Kids Yoga on YouTube)
- Fresh air outdoors (including our backyard or a walk around the block while social distancing)
- Sensory Play (including sensory bins and bottles)
Reading books takes us away from reality and into the world of fiction and storytelling. Children’s literature also provides kids with ways to cope or express with their feelings. It is important that your child feels loved and worthy. Some of our favourites are here.
3. Positive Affirmations
It is proven that positive thoughts triumph negative ones. The more we provide our children with positive thoughts, ideas, and affirmations, the more likely they are to be in a positive state of mind. Hopefully training their brains to continuously choose to see the beauty in life and everyday living. We have been using:
- My I Am Song book
Part of our bedtime routine is reflecting on our day and the feelings/emotions that we felt throughout the day. There are many big emotions that accompany being quarantined with the same people day in and day out. Although it has brought us closer, naturally we all get on each other’s nerves once in a while. It is important as adults that we role model our own thoughts and feelings in front of our children. We have been using the following tools for over a year now and absolutely love them:
- You can also create your own feelings book and use that for reflecting
It is also proven that the more gratitude we express daily, the more likely we will be able to acknowledge our abundance and all that we have to be thankful for. Our son started a gratitude journal that he documents in weekly. As part of our nightly bedtime routine, we express one thing we are grateful for from that day. You can also purchase Gratitude Journals for children such as this one.
Although our regular routine has been out of whack for weeks, we have developed a new routine by implementing these ideas. Our boys know that every night we read, we pray, we reflect, and we express gratitude. These simple ideas have made the world of a difference. For the past year and a half we have also worked closely with a child’s grief therapist, a naturopathic doctor, chiropractor, and osteopath that have all contributed to our family’s holistic health.
If you have an anxious child or a child with big messy emotions, I get it. I know how hard it is. How scary it can be. And how worrisome it is. We naturally want to help them and take it all away. Know that you are not alone, especially during these unprecedented times. Acknowledge your child, allow them to feel heard and safe. Let them know that it's okay to have big feelings but they are safe and loved and that everything is going to be okay.
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