Have you ever felt anxious and stressed for no reason? If you think back, you may remember feeling this way at times when you were a kid, too. If you have ever observed seemingly unreasonable anger or even tantrums in your child, it’s likely they themselves aren’t sure exactly why they feel so upset. There are many times when people big and small are simply not in touch with their feelings, when the emotional reaction just doesn’t fit the situation — usually the result of some underlying concern or issue. Individuals who are unable to assess why they feel what they are feeling can be prone to frustration, depression, and anger, so learning self-reflection and understanding one’s feelings can be very important for self-control. In this edition of the LearningWorks for Kids Beyond Games series you’ll find some tips and simple ways to help kids assess emotions.
It’s not always just anger. Don’t confuse anger with frustration or embarrassment in a child with poor metacognitive skills. Anger can stem from the sense of inadequacy often felt by children with learning and attention difficulties. These kids may not be able to openly communicate or express these concerns directly. You can best help them by being supportive, acknowledging how frustrating it is for them to have to work so hard to learn something new, and offering encouragement and praise. Introduce your child to an app like Notability, which allows them to write or speak notebook entries, and encourage them to use it the next time they are angry — for whatever reason. They may find that writing or speaking through their feelings can help them get at the root of what is bothering them, with the additional benefit of preventing them from getting so angry in the first place.
Break for relaxation. When everyday tasks and projects frustrate your child, make breathing a priority. Allow your child to enjoy time in a relaxing activity when they’ve reached their limit. It is important, however, not to use this technique to enable them to avoid situations they need to confront. You can avoid this by requiring that they begin work on the task at hand before engaging in their relaxation activity and then making sure they return to work after their break. You may find it helpful to try this strategy alongside an app like Timer+, which allows for timed tasks and activities, or SuperBetter, which would allow you to make a “quest” out of returning to a task after a relaxation break.
Personal Q & A. Teach your child to ask themselves what they are feeling in the moment. When a child is able to label their feelings, they have taken the first step toward being able to regulate and learn from emotions. Parents and educators can model this type of self-assessment by purposefully articulating what they are feeling and why. Use phrases like, “I’m feeling frustrated because no one seems to be listening to me,” and “I feel sad because I miss my friend.” Some kids will need a bit of prompting to understand the cause and effect of emotions, but they will get better with practice. Try complementing this strategy with a game like IF…, a fantasy adventure designed to help kids assess emotions and develop other social emotional learning skills that build self-awareness and self-control.
See our thinking skill pages for more about self-awareness and self-control. You can find other games and apps that help kids assess emotions, along with tips on how to play and talk about them with your kids, in our Playbook library. If you’ve found a strategy that works for you or have a tip for other parents, feel free to share it in the comments or come talk to us on Facebook!
Featured image: Flickr user Jayashree B