Posted in Emotion Identification, Emotion Regulation

Inside Out Feelings and Calming Strategies Worksheets

love using Inside Out when working with kids on emotion identification and emotion regulation.  It’s a fun movie and kids generally have a positive response when they see any of the characters from Inside Out, which mean the activity usually goes rather well.

I have created this worksheet to help kids identify how they’re feeling, how their body might be feeling, and some calming strategies they can use to help calm down.  This is similar to the Inside Out Feelings Book that I posted, but this worksheet is all on one piece of paper… and the reason for that is that I thought it would be nice to print this worksheet out and put it somewhere in the home (on the fridge, maybe?) as a visual prompt from kiddos.

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Download it here: Inside Out Feelings and Calming Strategies Worksheet

What I would do is sit down and help your kiddo fill in the blanks on the worksheet – for each of the four emotions (joy, anger, fear, sadness) there are 3 lines to write in body signals (how their body feels when they feel that emotion) and 3 lines to write an appropriate calming strategy.  Some of the body signals and calming strategies might overlap, but it would probably be beneficial to make sure there’s some variety!

Once it’s all filled out, put it somewhere your kiddo can see it.  Then, when you notice your child getting upset, prompt them to go find their Inside Out Feelings Worksheet, identify how they feel (help them, if needed due to age or development), then identify a calming strategy to use to calm down.

Posted in Emotion Regulation

Push-Pull-Dangle for Emotional Regulation

An amazing kiddo that I work with taught me a new calming strategy that can be used at while sitting in a chair.  I love this idea for two BIG reasons.  First, it can be done at school without being disruptive.  Second, it can be done discreetly – I have worked with lots of kids who don’t want people to see/know that they’re trying to calm down.

So the strategy is called “push-pull-dangle” and there are 3 steps.

  1. Put your hands on the top of your chair seat and push as hard as you can.  Depending on how long your arms are and how strong you are, your bottom might come off the seat.
  2. Put your fingertips on the underside of your chair and pull, so that you’re pulling your bottom/body into your chair seat.
  3. Let your arms dangle loosely at your side.

This seems to be a form of a muscle tension/relaxation calming strategy – you tense your muscles by pushing and pulling, then relax them by letting them dangle.

Give it a try yourself, and maybe teach it to your kiddo to give them another tool to use to help them stay calm when overwhelmed with negative emotions!

Posted in Parenting

Finding Balance: It’s Ok To Do Some Things For Your Child, But Maybe Don’t Do Everything For Them

An article came out a while back (I don’t remember specifically who wrote it or how/where it was published) suggesting that parents not do things for their children once their children are old enough to do it themselves. When I read the article, I took it as meaning that children should be able to complete some daily tasks themselves. Being responsible for chores and tasks can promote independence and teach valuable life skills. It can also reduce parental stress by putting some small responsibilities (e.g. making lunch, folding laundry, picking out clothes) on your kiddo.

I didn’t think much more about it until I saw a response article… basically, the author who responded felt “called out” because she still brushed her daughter’s hair, even though the daughter was old enough to do it herself. This article suggested that parents continue doing things for the child, even when they’re capable of doing it.

So who is right and who is wrong?! Neither?  Both?  I think both.  I think it’s all about finding a balance that works for you and your family.  The rough thing about parenting advice is that what works for one child/family may not work for another.  When my husband and I were preparing for the arrival of our daughter, everyone we talked to said babies love to be swaddled.  So we bought a ton of swaddle sleep sacks.  Guess what?  Our little girl HATED them.  She was so angry, from day 1, if her arms weren’t free!

What I got from these articles is that you want to teach your child new skills and give them some responsibility by having them complete some tasks, but that doesn’t mean you cannot do ANYTHING for them.  Acts of Services is one of The Five Love Languages.  My husband and I do things for each other all the time as an act of love.  I’m a grown woman and my mother still does nice things for me sometimes, even though I’m capable of doing them.  It’s absolutely Ok to do some things for your child as an act of love!  Again, it’s about finding balance.

The mom who wrote the response article gave me the impression that brushing her daughter’s hair is a bonding moment for the two of them.  I wouldn’t want to let that go either!  If I were that mama, I’d probably want to continue that tradition for as long as my kiddo would let me.  But on the other hand, parents who do every. single. thing. for their children might regret it later when their child grows up and cannot do anything for themselves (think college student who can only cook Easy Mac…).

As my daughter grows older, I want to teach her how to do things around the house and I want to teach her to bake and cook.  I want her to be able to bathe herself and paint her own nails and brush her hair and maybe even braid her hair.  But that doesn’t mean I’m going to expect her to always do everything for herself once she knows how.  I want her to be able to and I want her to have some responsibilities, but I’m her mom and I also will want to do nice things for her.

 

Posted in Parenting

Days Like This (and Three Positive Things About Them)

Today has been one of those days. Standing over my daughter’s crib, close to tears, trying to use my nonexistent superpowers to get her to sleep. Twenty-five minutes later she was finally napping… although that had more to do with persistence and some good old-fashioned soothing than superpowers.

It was past noon and I hadn’t had any coffee (the horror!) and had hardly eaten. I was hangry and emotionally exhausted. We’d already been to the grocery store and as soon as we got back and walked in the door she wanted a bottle. Then she finally fell asleep and I finally got to drink my coffee and eat something… while I also put groceries away and clean dishes and let the dog outside and back inside 5 times in 8 minutes.

Just one of those days… I texted my husband and told him I didn’t feel like a great mommy today, and not because I’d done anything wrong or bad, but because it seemed like nothing had gone smoothly. Then I started singing that song in my head… “mama said there’ll be days like this.” Yes, days like this are tough. Days like this have me checking the clock every 10 minutes to see if it’s time for my husband to come home. Days like this leave my feeling drained and sometimes incapable. But…

  • Days like this remind me that 95% of my days as a mommy are wonderful and relatively easy… sometimes I take those days for granted.
  • Days like this challenge me and build confidence.
  • Days like this remind me that I’m not superwoman (and that’s ok).

On days like this, it helps to remind myself that my little girl is a miracle that some pray for and may never have the pleasure of knowing. So I will try my best not to take her or motherhood for granted, even on days like this.

Posted in accepting decisions, Parenting

What to do When Your (Sassy-Pants) Child Talks Back 

Of all the negative behaviors I’ve dealt with (trust me, I’ve seen some really bad ones), talking back is one of those that really irritates me.  For some reason, it really gets under my skin.  I’ve worked with plenty of preteens/teens who want to argue with EVERY SINGLE thing (then sometimes giggle because they’re so funny…). The thing about arguing and talking back is that a response in any way reinforces it… because it’s giving the kiddo attention.  And also because sometimes kids are slightly evil and get enjoyment out of seeing their parents (or therapist) get worked up about it. When I did some training a few years ago, we had a speaker share this pearl of wisdom: Any time you start arguing with a preteen and/or teen, you’ve lost. 

So what do you do? Ignoring is an option, (but may not always be the best option). If your kiddo is only talking back occasionally, ignoring might be your best bet. It’s hard (trust me, I know it’s hard), but ignoring can work because it gets rid of that attention your child is getting for their negative behavior – just make sure you’re giving attention for the good things they do!

One reason ignoring may not always be a great option is that even if the parent(s) ignores, sometimes the arguer gets attention from siblings, which also reinforces the arguing (ugh). Another example of this is when I’ve done group therapy… if one child talks back, my ignoring doesn’t do a whole lot of good if the child’s peers are snickering.

If you’ve got a kiddo who is going through one of those really fun phases where they want to argue with everything, then you might consider a small consequence.  Emphasis on small because if your kiddo is talking back a lot, you’re going to be handing out that consequence a lot… you don’t want to run out of things/privileges to take away!

Some examples of small consequences:

  • Go to bed 1-2 minutes early every time they talk back (so a 9:30pm bedtime can become 9:15 or 9:00 if your child talks back 15 times that day).
  • Extra homework or reading time (decide a certain number of minutes) for every time they talk back/argue.
  • Losing 1-2 (or more) minutes of tv/video game/tablet/phone time for every instance of arguing.

The most important thing is finding something that motivates your child.  I’ve worked with some kiddos who don’t care for electronic time – so taking away electronic time won’t motivate them at all.

I’ve used small consequences like this in the past and found them to be very effective.  When I’ve done this, it only takes a few times of telling a child they’ve lost electronic time before they are suddenly (miraculously) able to control that urge to respond with their sassy comments.

In my opinion, it’s a good idea to let your kiddo know what’s up before you just start handing out the consequences. It doesn’t have to be a long drawn out conversation. Maybe something like this:

“Starting now, every time you choose to argue or talk back instead of saying “Ok,” you will lose one minute of electronic time.”

Obviously the way you phrase it might be completely different. I love throwing in “choice” or “choose” somewhere because it reminds them that it’s their decision to make and, thus, their “fault” if given a consequence.

Also, if you’re anything like me, remember to use any strategies you have to stay calm. A frustrated sigh has given me away a few times… kids can pick up on those cues pretty easily and it only fuels the fire. As with everything else, just do your best and cut yourself some slack… it might take a lot of practice.