Updated: Oct 23, 2020
As a therapist and a person who has had to work hard to develop my own emotional intelligence, one of my goals as a mother is to help my kids develop their own capacity for understanding their feelings and finding healthy outlets for their difficult emotions. For this reason, I’ve started working with my son each week on exploring a different emotion, and opened this opportunity for exploration up to other parents and their kids, ages 4-6.
This week, we explored ANGER. Anger is a big one for us, and it so complex that we discuss it informally quite often. For this activity, I found a book for 4-6 year olds to teach about anger and ways to manage it, played a brief game with our Elf Emotion Cards, and used art to explore healthy ways to manage our anger.
Time: 25-45 minutes
Objective: To help child build awareness of the emotion Anger by -
(1) developing vocabulary to name it according to its strength on a spectrum
(2) recognizing how anger looks on the body and the face
(3) recognizing how anger can be lessened through healthy thoughts and activities
(4) reinforcing the idea that one can have control over his/her emotion and consequential behaviors
(5) reinforcing the idea that emotions ebb and flow, and can be triggered by certain external events or internal thoughts
(6) understanding how gratitude can help lessen anger
(7) building awareness of what unique thoughts and activities can help that individual calm his/her anger, thus preparing a plan to manage that anger in the future
BOOK: The Tantrum Monster (10-15 minutes)
As an expat family living in a non-English-speaking country, it can be difficult to find certain books in English. The concept of a library doesn’t really exist here, so borrowing books in the host language is also not really an option. I signed up for the Kindle Unlimited Subscription to help offset this challenge, and borrowed the book “The Tantrum Monster” by Michael Gordon (click here). Because I intended to read this book to a small group of children, I took screen shots of each page and had them printed in color so that the children would be able to see the pictures that accompanied the text. I read the book, attempting to illicit thoughts and responses from my son at different points in the book. The story presents a monster boy who becomes angry at his mother for different reasons at the start of the book. Out of anger, he decides to run away; however, he starts to think of all the people and things that bring him happiness (and that he will miss) which calms him. In a state of calm, he decides not to leave, and reconnects with his mother. It is an engaging story, and one that my son was able to relate to. He also found the illustrations interesting and fun.
GAME: Feeling Elf Cards (10 minutes)
We have a deck of Emotion Cards (click here) that I use from time to time with my son. He has become quite skilled at recognizing how emotions are presented visually both on the face and in body language, and is working on increasing his emotion vocabulary. For our game this week, I asked him to select which elves appeared to be angry (in a spectrum, ranging from Irritable, Annoyed, Angry, and Furious) from a variety of different emotion cards presented. After he selected these cards, I then asked him to rank the cards in terms of least angry to most angry. We use an Anger Thermometer regularly at home, so he was used to this idea and was able to complete the task successfully.
ACTIVITY: Calming Thoughts (5-10 minutes)
Because the book highlighted how the Monster was able to calm himself by thinking about people and things that he enjoys and is thankful for, I asked my son to consider what thoughts bring him happiness. I then related this to the idea of gratitude. After this line of inquiry, I asked him to draw these things using paper and crayons. Initially, he was engaged, but his interest died off quickly. I participated in the drawing process (at his request) in an attempt to help encourage him; however, the drawing activity morphed into something unrelated after about 5 minutes. It is possible that he was simply not interested in this medium at this particular time.
Working only with my son, this activity lasted approximately 25 minutes. I suspect that, with other children participating in the process, it could continue on for 45 minutes. Though we did not do so this week, a teacher or parent could very easily add deep breathing, meditation, or yogic stretches at the conclusion of this activity.
I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on this activity. If you have done similar work, which books have you used? What activities did you do with your kids to reinforce these concepts? If you did this activity as posted here, how did it go?