BIG feelings can be overwhelming for kids. For younger kids and toddlers, they may not have the vocabulary to identify and express how they’re feeling. Instead of saying “I’m overwhelmed,” or “I’m frustrated,” they might express their feelings in the form of a tantrum or outburst. That’s because the part of their brain that’s responsible for emotional regulation is still developing! For older, elementary-aged kids, they are more capable of understanding and labeling their emotions, but it’s still important for them to know how they can feel calm when BIG feelings arise.
To help keep kids calm in times with BIG feelings, try these steps:
- Label the Emotion: “Are you feeling _______?”
- Validate and Support: Instead of “You’re ok,” try, “It’s okay to feel that way. I’m here for you.”
- Choose a Coping Strategy: “Would you like to try a keep cool card together? Pick any card you’d like!”
My Keep Cool Cards are designed to help kids learn and practice healthy coping skills. BIG feelings are a part of life, but learning how to respond to them in a healthy way is one of the most important lessons a child can learn. When using the cards, kids can select a card from the deck of 20 to find one that interests them. Then they can practice the coping strategy with you. Here are a couple of examples:
Squeeze and Relax: Squeeze your hands tightly for a few seconds, then relax. Repeat. Try moving to other muscle groups, starting at the top of your body and moving to your feet – shoulders, arms, stomach, legs, feet.
Box Breathing: Trace your finger around the box shape on the card or any other box you can find. As you move your finger up one side, breathe in. Next, hold your breath as your finger moves along the top of the square. As your finger moves down the side, breathe out. Finally, rest as your finger moves across the bottom of the box. For more fun, try deep breathing with different shapes!
Colorful Creation: Draw, color, or paint a picture. Anything you’d like! Bonus: Draw what your feelings would look like.
Fidget Fun: Play with a fidget toy, build with blocks, or squeeze a squishy ball. No ball? Squeeze each of your fingers, then your fist and repeat!
Get Grounded: Name 5 things you can see right now. Name 4 things you can feel with your body right now. Name 3 things you can hear right now. Name 2 things you can smell right now. Name 1 thing you can taste right now.
Outside Stroll: Go for a walk around your neighborhood, in your yard, or in nature. What do you see?
Chit-chat: Talk with someone you trust. You can talk through topics like how you’re feeling, why you feel a certain way, and how someone else can help you.
Keep Cool Mantra: Close your eyes and repeat, “I can calm my body. I can calm my mind. 1-2-3- a calmer me.”
These are just a few of the Keep Cool coping strategies, but there are so many more to choose from including movement activities, creative prompts, conversation starters, and more. Click here to download the full card set with includes 20 dual-language calming activities that you can use anytime and anywhere.
By practicing coping strategies like these, you’re helping your child acknowledge their feelings, teaching them that all feelings are okay and normal, and showing them ways to self-regulate.