Kids experience the same emotions as adults – anxious, sad, disappointed, embarrassed, angry, scared—to name a few.
A key part of emotional resilience is teaching children strategies to help them manage and navigate emotions in healthy ways. This will make a difference not only throughout their childhood, but also as an adult.
Since everyone is different, what calms you and helps you move through your emotions, won’t necessarily work for a child.
During one of my presentations, a young student shared that counting helps calm him. I replied with ‘counting to ten is a great strategy.’ He said, ‘No – random numbers…10, 18, 52, 6, 103, 186…’
Imagine that he is in the throes of an emotion and someone starts counting…one, two, three, etc. Instead of calming him, his emotional state would heighten from the frustration, as he’d feel that what truly helps him isn’t being honoured – random numbers.
This is why it’s so important to know beforehand what works best for each child when they are experiencing an emotion. Ask them what they find helpful.
Then create a list of their ways so you know what to suggest when emotions arise. Post the list somewhere that will serve as a reminder for both you and them.
This is what I know: Being mindful of the ways that work best to support a child’s emotional needs, shows them that you are being empathetic and attentive. This builds connection.
Until next time…
5 Apr 2023
Two Strategies to Help Kids with Their Challenging Behaviours
When kids display challenging behaviours, it’s easy to react from your emotions.
You can easily respond with frustration, irritation and anger, triggering you to yell, ‘Why would you say/do that?!’
Training yourself to be aware of the emotions you are experiencing and how to navigate them is an essential part of teaching kids to do the same.
Before you can help a child self-regulate – you must do it first.
Take a moment to pause and breathe deep. Then try asking this question, ‘What were you feeling when you said/did that?’ You are now creating an opportunity for a more meaningful and empathetic dialogue which will help you get to the root of what is really happening.
Helping children learn to be aware of their emotions and how to move with and through them in healthy ways helps to shift their behaviour.
Here are two strategies I find extremely helpful to do with my 10 year old son…
If he can’t find the words to tell me the emotion he is feeling, I bring out the ‘elephant emotions‘ poster. Approaching the situation from this angle allows him to identify the emotion that led to his behaviour. It also helps him understand that he was making his choice from that emotion. I remind him that he is a good kid that is having a hard time with his emotions.
This is what I know: When a circumstance happens, it triggers an emotion and out of the emotion you see a behaviour. These two strategies will help you discuss openly the process of recognizing, identifying and releasing emotions in healthy ways so that the next time they react from a circumstance, instead of reprimanding, you can say with compassion and patience, ‘What are you/were you feeling?’
Until next time,
22 Mar 2023
Words You Don’t Want to Hear
Have you ever heard your child say these hurtful words, “I hate you. I don’t like you. You’re the worst.”
Hearing those words can trigger emotions of sadness, anger, even confusion and embarrassment. In these emotional moments, it’s easy to become reactive.
‘You’re being rude and disrespectful’ may be your response or you may find yourself saying, ‘Don’t talk like that. You’re making me sad.’
You can easily take offense to these hurtful words, knowing how much you do for them. However, because children have strong emotions, they can explode without a moment’s notice, especially when they aren’t getting their own way.
I can remember times as a preteen and teen when I would tell my mum I didn’t like her. My mum would respond in a calm voice with a simple ‘okay’. Kids need to know that the feelings that overwhelm them do not overwhelm us.
Now, when my son says the same thing to me, I remember not to take those emotionally charged words personally. I know he is really saying, ‘I don’t like your rule, boundary, consequence or decision you made.’
TRY THIS: Respond with ‘I can tell you are upset.’ Honour the emotions they are experiencing beyond the words they are saying.
Until next time…
18 Jan 2023
Tips to Helping Kids Ride the Waves of Emotions
Kids tell me they don’t like feeling tough emotions like anger, sadness, guilt, frustration and disappointment because – not only is it uncomfortable – they also think, ‘this is it, this is how I’m always going to feel.’
A few weeks ago, my 10-year-old son was so upset. I could see him desperately trying to hold back his tears. I said, ‘It’s OK to cry.’ He gave me a frustrated look and said, ‘I don’t like feeling this feeling.’ which triggered him to cry causing him to get even more upset.
Think back to when you were a kid… didn’t tough emotions and challenging times feel permanent?
Later that night when he was in a calmer state, we had a reflective conversation. I asked, ‘How are you feeling now?’ He replied, ‘I’m feeling happy.’
I asked, ‘How were you feeling this morning?’
‘Upset, frustrated and angry.’
‘Did you think those emotions were going to last forever?’ he responded with a resounding ‘YES!’
‘And how are you feeling now?’
‘So did that feeling of sadness last forever?’
He thought about it and firmly said ‘NO!’
We then had a conversation about other times in his life where he faced a challenge or made a mistake and it triggered emotions. I reminded him that he always got through them including now.
Even though we may not like feeling the emotions brought on by challenging circumstances, they can’t be avoided no matter how hard we try. Sometimes they get really intense and then subside like waves. We need to teach kids to be like a surfer and ride the ‘waves’ of their emotions.
Tips to help kids ride the waves by:
talking about how ‘it’s OK to feel all emotions’
giving them a safe space to feel without criticism or trying to fix how they feel
reminding them they can get through tough emotions
exploring various strategies that will help them work through their emotions when they are in a calm state
Helping kids ride the waves of emotions is not only important for their overall well-being, it will also help them through the challenges they will experience throughout their life.
Until next time…
21 Dec 2022
Feel Stressed and Overwhelmed?
It’s easy to feel stressed and overwhelmed when you have a lot on your plate – the same may be true for your kids. Everyone has times in their life when it feels as though the world is speeding up and keeping up seems impossible.
I find it easier to keep things in perspective when I take time for me. Making time for ‘You Moments’ is crucial to feeling inner peace. When you take the time to do things to create inner peace your life appears less chaotic. This is also important to model to your kids.
Here are a few things that I do to help me regroup when I feel stressed and overwhelmed:
Pen to Paper – writing out your feelings, nagging thoughts and worries helps clear the clutter that can sometimes take over your mind. I find it very healing to slowly rip up the paper after writing it – a great way to let go of stress and feel a sense of calm
Gratitude Break – feeling and expressing gratitude not only boosts emotional and mental well-being, but also boosts your immune system and your happiness. Focusing on what you enjoy and are grateful for, helps to shift your mood and mind to a happier state.
Breathe – I know this seems obvious but the quality of breaths you take makes a BIG difference in helping you feel calm and relaxed. I notice when I feel stressed and overwhelmed, I tend to take shallow breaths and sometimes even hold my breath. Be conscious of taking big, deep breaths in, hold for 5 seconds, then breathe out. Try five in a row.
Music – listening to your favourite music or singing along to a song can provide a temporary escape from a stressful day. Choosing specific lyrics can help you look at your day differently.
Talk with Friends and Family – carve out time to give them a call. It can be helpful to share your concerns and to hear what is happening in other people’s lives. It reminds you that you are not the only one to feel stressed and overwhelmed.
Drink Water – stress can be caused because our bodies are thirsty. Sip water continuously throughout the day. Being dehydrated can make even the simplest task overwhelming and frustrating.
Revamp your To-Do List – create two columns – a MUST DO and a would be NICE to DO.
In the MUST DO column, put everything that is time sensitive and needs to get done that day. In the NICE to DO column, put the things that you would like to accomplish but if you don’t, ‘oh well.’
As you complete a task, cross it off! Crossing tasks off your list feels so good – ‘YAY! I got that done!’
Until next time…
7 Dec 2022
Emotions – No Thank You!
Avoiding emotions and telling yourself not to feel them, impacts your well-being. It affects your ability to communicate with others, your relationships, your performance, and your choices.
Suppressing emotions, pretending not to feel them and saying ‘I’m fine’ can lead to stress, burnout and more importantly emotional fatigue – yes that’s a real thing!
You can’t communicate effectively when you are emotionally charged. Training yourself to be aware of your feelings is essential to being able to communicate calmly and respectfully.
Did your heart skip a beat at the thought of talking about your emotions?
Learning to articulate how you truly feel creates emotional awareness. Most people’s emotional vocabulary consists of angry, sad, happy or anxious. There are many more emotions between those:
angry –> frustrated –> annoyed –> irritated
sad –> disappointed –> regretful –> depressed
happy –> excited –> confident –> content
anxious –> nervous –> worried –> confused
Expressing emotions can be tough. It can feel overwhelming and vulnerable. This is especially true if you learned as a child that sharing your emotions made you seem weak or feel shameful.
Expressing your emotions helps you:
Calm down quicker
Make character-based choices
Bounce back more easily
Improve communication skills
Bring harmony and well-being to your mental and physical state
Instead of reacting and avoiding emotions, take a pause and check-in with how you are feeling.
Here’s what I know: Being mindful of the emotions you are experiencing is essential to making choices in the moment that you can be proud of for the moments to come.
Until next time…
9 Nov 2022
Kids want you to know…
‘I really enjoyed your presentation. It opened a few doors for me. This past year I went through some problems but your presentation showed me another way of looking at my problems. You really helped me to know that my feelings big or small are normal and that it’s okay to feel.’ – Male Student
Sometimes kids think they should only feel HAPPY because they believe that is the only way people will accept them.
Kids tell me that when they hear, ‘It’s OK to feel what you are feeling’, they know they have been respected and validated – that they have been given the space to express and share their emotions.
Space to feel gives space to heal.
Practicing ‘space’ builds connection (1 min video). It allows kids to feel comforted, supported, and more open to finding ways to move with and through their emotions.
Remind them that feeling a wide range of emotions is natural and normal and that we accept them no matter how they are feeling.
The more we choose to step outside our comfort zone by acknowledging and sharing our own emotions, we model and teach them that… ‘It’s OK to feel what you are feeling‘.
Until next time…
26 Oct 2022
Thriving through Emotional Chaos
At times it can be difficult to remain calm and thrive through the emotional chaos you might be experiencing. Your emotions seem to be all over the place. You promise yourself you won’t let your emotions get the best of you but then they do…you make a reactive choice from your emotions.
Later regret floods your brain. You wish you had taken a breath and been more self-aware of the emotions you were feeling and handled them differently.
Since emotions fluctuate and change according to the circumstance and mood you are experiencing, emotions are not a reliable place to make all choices from.
What helps me thrive through the emotional chaos so I can remain calm in order to make choices I am proud of, is keeping my character (who I believe I am), at the forefront of my mind. I repeat, ‘I choose to be respectful and patient.’ I even have it written on post-it notes as a visual reminder 😊
I remind myself that I am allowed to feel frustrated, disappointed, angry, upset (so are you). When I take a deep breath and say, ‘Sara, it’s OK to feel that way but your character is Respect & Patience’, it actually shifts my approach. It shifts my choices.
Training yourself to be conscious of the emotions you are experiencing so that you can breathe through them to make character-based choices, is essential to making choices in the moment that you can be proud of for the moments to come.
Until next time…
28 Sep 2022
It Hurts to be Bullied
Being bullied happens too often, and it can make kids feel scared, sick, embarrassed, anxious, depressed and sad. Bullying can make them feel alone with nowhere and no one to turn to.
That’s why Paul Davis (internet safety expert) & I decided to invite Emily, who is 18 years old, to join our podcast to share her bullying story that began in grade 3.
Words from Emily: ‘In grade 3 no one liked me & I don’t know why. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t fit in. I was the one who got picked last in gym class. I kept saying grade 4 will be better. It did get better for a while until the day our teacher asked us to mark each other’s spelling test. When mine was returned to me I saw messages written on it, “You’re not smart! You’re dumb!”
You feel so hopeless. You believe you will never get out of being bullied. You have no reason to go to school – you hate it there. My principal tried to help and for a while it was fine until it wasn’t. When you’re 9 years old you are just starting to figure out life and when the adults have no hope of fixing the situation you feel alone.’
Paul Davis reminds us that we need kids to know if they speak out about any type of bullying, they will be supported.
Once Emily entered high school, she had an idea…click here to watch or here to listen to the full podcast where Emily shares her idea.
One piece of advice to adults from Emily: ‘The most helpful thing an adult can do for a child that is being bullied is to take the time to listen & to let the child talk about how they are feeling & then help work through their emotions together, so it isn’t just on the child’s shoulders.’
Until next time…
24 Mar 2022
Ever Tried to Avoid an Emotion?
Don’t you wish you could pick and chose the emotions you want to experience?
Especially during lockdown and online learning. I remember one morning laying in bed, mentally preparing the start to my day.
I was telling myself…
‘Today I won’t feel irritated. I felt irritated yesterday and it was exhausting, not today!’
Within 10 minutes of getting out of bed my son was already complaining about having to log on to do his learning – he was asking for his fifth snack and it wasn’t even 9 am yet!
I was irritated!!
I couldn’t avoid it. My body and brain felt irritated without my consent.
This is what I know: I quickly learned that emotions can surprise you and they aren’t to be avoided and can’t be avoided for the long term. We are emotional beings whether we are comfortable with it or not!
So, the real practice becomes in allowing ourselves to feel and acknowledge our emotions and then find healthy ways to move with/through them.
Here are some simple and effective strategies that I find helpful:
• deep breaths (make your exhale longer than your inhale)
• remind myself that it’s ok to feel what I’m feeling
• notice where the emotion impacts me physically (neck pain, stomach ache , heart rate)
• 5 min meditation
• talk to someone
• go for a walk
• listen to music
What helps you move with and through an uncomfortable emotion?