From the day my husband and I brought our first-born home and made it through the first sleepless night, I asked myself: why don’t kids come with instructions? Just think how much easier the parenthood would have been if you could know exactly what the problem is and find the best fitting solution. Instead, we try to pick on the clues in the attempt to understand what the child of ours wants and hope for the best.
Emotions are what separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom with even a day old infant expressing emotions by crying. Growing up, our adorable children gift us with more complex emotions as eventually, their speech comes along to replace babbles and mumbles and things get easier… sort of.
I Can’t Talk, But I Can Cry!
But what if the speech is delayed? What if the emotions bubble up and the child doesn’t know how to express himself? What’s next? Here comes the roaring meltdown with all its loudness, ugliness, and obnoxiousness!!! I’ve experienced that a lot with my son and as a mother, I hated these moments – I couldn’t help him simply because I couldn’t understand him while my desire to fix everything just irritated him even more and resulted in louder screams.
The Little Voices in My Head
Is your child sad or angry? Don’t guess – let him show you! This might be a great way for a child to demonstrate to you exactly what he feels even if he can’t tell you. Have you seen “Inside Out” movie? Riley’s little voices might just become your best friends and all you have to do is to keep these characters handy – print the faces of Joy, Fear, Anger, Sadness, and Disgust.
Did you figure out how your child feels? You are half way there – now we need to teach him how to act out on his emotions in the controlled environment. That is where the box of emotions comes really handy.
The Box of Emotions
- Empty formula tub (21.5 oz) or any container you find suitable
- Soft fabric like flannel. If you want to cheat, get Duct Tape Fabric (it is as soft on the outside and sticky on the inside)
- Burlap Ribbon
- Any decorative supply you find pleasing (loose buttons, black chalkboard stickers, etc)
- Fabric Glue
- I love big formula tubs – the lid locks, but it is easy to open. To save time I used Duct Tape Fabric, but you can use any fabric (or old receiving blankets) you have around the house. Glue fabric around the jar (cut the fabric into two pieces or easy handling).
- Cut an oval piece of fabric and glue it onto the top of the jar.
- Wrap burlap ribbon around the bottom of the tub and secure it with the fabric glue.
- Decorations are optional but highly recommended. Feel free to paste charcoal stickers, fun buttons or any other decorations you have around the house. You can even let your child draw on it with fabric markers.
- Paste Velcro strip on the front panel where you find it appropriate and let it rest for a while
Click on the image below to print out the image and watch the characters help your child express his feelings. Cut and glue them to a piece cardboard or laminate them to make sure they have a long happy life.
Put Velcro tape on the back of each emotion. As an alternative, you could buy the plush dolls at the Walmart.
Does your child stomp his feet when he is mad or throws himself down on the floor? Maybe he jumps when he excited or barks like a dog? Does he hide under the table when scared or climbs on virtually anything? Create little cards that will show your son or daughter that it is ok to express our feelings. Put Velcro on the back of each card. My list includes the following expressions:
- Count to 5
- Stomp your feet
- Squeeze the ball
- Be a mouse
- Jump high
- Close your eyes
Your list might be big or small, however, make sure it is something your child is comfortable doing. Draw little cards that show expressions and put them in the can along with the emotions.
Ready to use your big box of emotions?
The next time your child is starting to fuss, sit him down, open the box, and ask him: How do you feel? Let him pick the character he associates himself with and paste it onto the box.
What do you want to do about it? Let’s pick three cards. By doing so, you are slowly shifting child’s interest away from cranky behavior to thinking about what he actually wants to do. Let him pick three cards and paste them around the character face.
Close the Box
Encourage your child to do what the cards ask him to. Regardless of the fact that your child might or might not want you to participate, but in any case, you will have a clear message of how your child feels.