So, as a Mom of highly emotional little humans, I have gotten really used to talking about feelings, discussing healthy ways to express them, and what to do when our feelings are too big for our bodies.
Expressing, dealing with and communicating feelings doesn’t come easily to everyone. The “seen not heard” mentality of child-rearing may have faded in the past couple of generations, but it is still alive and present in our communities. Most contemporary child development specialists, teachers, psychologists, and other mental health care providers would agree that expressing and sharing feelings is a really critical part of learning to communicate and form healthy relationships. It is also a skill. We do not universally understand how to describe how we feel, and we are not always good at identifying and naming feelings we see in others.
We are also more than a year and a half into a global pandemic, which even in the best-managed scenarios has dramatically affected young people’s social and emotional development and deeply impacted ALL of our mental health. Children’s Church, Messy Church, and youth group are all great places for young people to share how they are doing, the feelings they are having, and to be received in a safe and comfortable way. I didn’t anticipate, when schools closed on March 13, 2020, that I would spend countless hours in what amounted to ZOOM group therapy sessions. It has been a time of unexpected skills development, but frankly, we could all do better at making space for learning about healthy emotions in our church spaces.
I love children’s books as tools to work on harder stuff with kids. Here are a few of my favourite “feelings books”
I recently participated in a Messy Church gathering where we shared some of our strategies for calming down when we had really big feelings. We also made sensory bottles as a craft with a purpose. We used recycled plastic bottles, which we filled with a good inch of clear glue at the bottom, glitter, and larger sequins, followed by hot water to help dissolve the glue. The effect is a lovely slow swirl of sparkles that gently settle to the bottom. Having a little calm down kit, or cosy spot in your home or community space can be great for when kids get overwhelmed or upset. Step By Step Instructions for glitter jars here:
When kids have a lot of big feelings and they have put in “time-out” in isolation, it can be really hard for them, and counterproductive in the self-regulation learning process. In those hard moments, it can work wonders to have a “time-in” with a trusted caregiver taking a few moments, away from the larger situation and trying a few calming strategies. We won’t succeed at doing this all the time! Sometimes I need a time-out from my kids so that my feelings don’t get too big for my body. It is just so important to remember that all of us have challenging moments, and kids have had significantly less practice and experience. We all deserve grace.
I also made this fun little resource that you can download, print and cut up and even laminate if you are inspired. It is simple, but it gives a concrete expression of what someone might do or how they might act while they are feeling…