Step 1: Always remember to focus on the positive and highlight the things your child(ren) and family already do well!
Step 2: Allow the opportunity for discussion around ways you can continue to improve supporting each other as a family.
Step 3: Listen! Give your child the opportunity to share their reactions without interruption or trying to complete their thoughts for them.
Step 4: Try implementing one of the developmentally appropriate activities below as a way to discuss the topic further or demonstrate a helpful coping skill. Feel free to pick the one that will be most interesting for your child(ren.)
Pre-school and School-Aged Children:
It can be difficult for younger children to communicate their feelings effectively with words. Try incorporating this activity in the form of a craft project. Begin by talking about some basic color associations. You can do this while you're already coloring a picture. (I.e. yellow reminds you of happiness or warmth like the sun, red reminds you of being angry like your skin when it gets sunburnt, blue reminds you of being sad like teardrops in pictures). Then introduce the picture of the feelings monster by saying "If you were this silly looking monster what colors would you make him to show how he feels" Your child may start by coloring with the colors you just mentioned or they may choose their favorite color that you didn't discuss. Regardless of the color they choose, take this opportunity to ask why they chose that color and what that color reminds them of. Want to learn more about the color monster? You can watch a reading of the book The Color Monster by Anna Llenas online.
Start the conversation by pointing out that our body and even our mind works like the engine of a car. Using how's my engine running picture explain that cars have temperature gauges to measure how well the engine is running. Just like the driver of a car needs to know how their engine is running it is important for us to keep track of how our body and our mind are working.
Start by coloring the triangle on the left blue. This is our engine when it is too cold. This may be our body/mind when we are not getting enough of the good things like sleep, food or time to play. Color the middle triangle green; this is our engine when it is running just right. The triangle on the right will be red when our engine is too hot. This may be our body when we are worried or scared. Use a crayon as an indicator arrow for the child to place in the center of the circle and point to one of the three triangles (if you want to create a more permanent version of this you can use a brad and an arrow cut out.) Take a minute to talk about the things they can do to get back to the green when they are in the blue or red. This project and craft can be a good tool to keep handy and talk about daily as a check-in for all members of the family.
Start the conversation by pointing out that there are always things that come up in life which will make you feel overwhelmed or "stressed out." This is natural! Recognizing what works for you is an important part of managing that stress. Ask your teen to think about the situations or feelings that they experience when they are overwhelmed and another list of situations or feelings that they experience when they are calm. Draw an image (or use this "Bridge to Peace Island" handout) with these two lists as separate circles that are not connected. Then, draw a line (bridge) to connect these two circles. Discuss what actions or aspects of their life (support system) help them reach the calm side. Reiterate that it's important for you as a parent to know which of these tools are most helpful to your teen in managing their stress so that you can help make them available when needed.
Feelings Rainbow (requires red, yellow, blue, white and black paint):
Start the conversation by talking about how all the colors of the rainbow and our feelings occur on a spectrum. Start by placing the three primary colors in a triangle on the page and then mixing two of them together to form a secondary color. Discuss how some of our feelings, like anger, are actually like the secondary colors that are created when we mix primary colors together. Like secondary colors, our complex emotions, like anger always have other feelings (like shame, fear, or hurt) underneath it. Continue by incorporating white and black paint to discuss how our emotions can occur at different intensities. Lighter feelings can evolve into more intense feelings when we continue to add more emotions on top of them. (Start with a drop of white paint and slowly add one color to it.)
Remind your teen that, just like the rainbow, humans have a full range of emotions which includes ones that feel good, ones that feel bad and ones that feel ugly. We cannot pick and choose which feelings we have and which feelings we don't have. We must feel them all. Feelings that do not feel "good" can still serve a good purpose (like warning lights on a dashboard.) Once we have identified the purpose of a feeling we can release it, like a fish. If we catch it again we can release it again but we learn something new about why we feel the way we do each time we catch and release a feeling.
Remember that we do not need to judge our feelings, only to be curious about why we are feeling them.
Step 5: Reflect on the activity/what you discussed. Reviewing things is a great way to help your child process new information! Ask your child: was that helpful, what did you learn, do they have ideas for other ways your family could work together to support each other?