Saturday, April 4, 2015

How to Teach Kids About Processing and Handling Their Emotions

First we had a Time Out chair.
Then we nixed the idea of punishments altogether and began leaning towards effective gentle discipline- which led to the Calm Couch.

And now we have this: The Safe Place.

We call it the Safe Place because it's the one place in our house where our kids can go if they are dealing with difficult emotions and safely process them with the help of the visual and tangible aids I placed there.

When a tantrum ensues I ask my child if she/he would like to go to the safe place so we can handle it. Sometimes they go there on their own. Sometimes the emotions get the best of them and they refuse to go to the Safe Place at first.

Both are fine. I never force my kids to go there as that would defeat the purpose of it being a Safe Place. It is not a place of punishment but a place of rest and comfort.

Because dealing with emotions is hard. ESPECIALLY if you are little and you only understand 3 basic emotions: Happiness, Sadness, and Fear.

The goal of our Safe Place is to encourage our children to understand the more complex underlying emotions that hide behind our basic emotions and teach them how to cope with them in a safe and productive manner.

So we placed a few key items near the extremely large and comfy Papasan Chair (where we both fit if necessary) that gently encourage and teach these principals.

1. A basket of books that focus on Emotions. A few of the titles we chose are:

2. A large mirror: This is especially helpful for younger children so they can see their emotions in action. My 3 year old always goes to the mirror first before she heads to the chair. Sometimes she will sit there for several minutes and watch herself cry. Visually seeing themselves express their emotions helps develop empathy and encourages a deeper understanding of themselves and their emotions.

3. Pictures of our family in photo albums- I placed a few photo albums inside the book basket to remind them of how much we love and care for each other. This is usually what my children choose to look at while in the safe place.

4. A stuffed animal or two. One of the ways my children can choose to cope is by hugging a Teddy so we have one right on hand.

5. A canvas painting that labels our Safe Place and expresses our goals for the Safe Place: "I'm Safe Here." I made this myself- although I am a self proclaimed hobby artist I'm pretty sure anyone could whip this craft up regardless of artistic skill.

and then most importantly:
6. Our Emotion Charts.

I designed these pages so my children could learn to identify their emotions and then learn how to safely cope with the emotion in a tangible, visual, and interactive way.

The pages are designed to fit neatly into 8x10 picture frames so they stay protected from dirty little fingers, and then include extra pages so you can laminate and cut out the emotion faces and coping techniques so they rest on top of the glass of the picture frames via velcro dots. This allows the child to choose an emotion, move it to the "I Am Feeling" chart, and then choose a way to cope and move it over to the "I Choose to Handle it By" chart.

Like this:

I'm extremely excited to offer this kit in my Etsy Store for just $5 as an instant download! 

The kit includes the 4 charts shown above and below,  as well as an extra page of emotion faces to be laminated and cut out for interactive use, and an extra page of the Coping Choices to be laminated and cut out for interactive use.
And of course instructions.

Our Safe Place is such a huge hit in our family even my 10 year old will occasionally rest there. And I love that:) 
Occasionally my 3 year old will play with the faces and swap them out. I'm OK with that too because it is through Play that children learn best. Also, I figure that although they are a great tool to have on hand when a tantrum erupts, she is likely to learn more from them when she is calm and happily pretending with them. 

If you would like to purchase this download CLICK HERE

and of course as always- 

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