Life Lessons: How to Deal With Big Feelings

Many of the children we work with have a hard time understanding their feelings in the face of some difficult family situations. Children tend to model behavior learned from their parents. But, what happens if their parents don’t provide the best model, or never properly learned to process their emotions themselves?

Several children who participate in our programs come from homes situations that involve physical and/or emotional abuse, problems with alcohol or substance abuse, crime, marital discourse, mental illness, and unemployment.

So, when kids are not properly shown how to control their emotions they express their emotions through their actions, which may not always be appropriate. This can lead to outbursts, temper tantrums, and violence against others.

A child who can say, “I’m angry with you,” is less prone to hitting; and a child who can say, “That hurts my feelings,” is better prepared to handle conflict peacefully.

Before participating in our lessons on feelings, students didn’t have the language to express their feelings, using the words ‘good’ and ‘bad’ to describe their reactions to various events. Through a variety of activities, games and lectures we have been teaching kids to pinpoint their feelings and analyze them as we discuss fear, happiness, guilt, and disappointment.

The ability to put your feelings into words is the first step toward better communication, which is integral to the foundation of every young child’s success in life.