How to help your child manage big feelings: 3 things you can do!

Lately my four year old son has been experiencing some really big feelings. He's angry and is having a hard time expressing it in a safe way all the time. I was thinking about ways to help him express and manage all these big feelings and I decided to focus on three ways to help him manage his feelings.

A toolkit

I found a container in the basement and decided to fill it with things that he could use when he feels angry or mad or sad or frustrated. We talked about the things he likes to do that calm him down. He likes to build pillow forts, blow bubbles, squeeze stress balls and play with little toys & erasers.  We added all the items we could into the container so they were easily accessible for him any time he was feeling mad.

Read about feelings

I found several books about dealing with your emotions from by background in counseling and have them out and laying around so that we can pick them up and read them at any time.   

When Sophie Gets Angry, Really, Really Angry by Molly Bang

When I Feel Angry by Cornelia Maude Spelman

Cool Down and Work Through Anger by Cheri J. Meiners M.Ed.

These are geared toward an older crowd, but he still likes to listen to them:

Don’t Rant and Rave on Wednesdays by Adolph Moser

Don’t Pop your Cork on Mondays by Adolph Moser

Use visual cues

I wanted my son to have some visual cues to use when he is feeling big feelings so that he can point to the tool that he wants to use. I took pictures of all the items in the toolbox and things he likes to do to calm himself down, like building a pillow fort and running in the yard, put them all on a little hook and put that in his toolkit too. That way when he is having big emotions he can look at the pictures and pick one to do. We keep the toolkit on the main floor of our house and a few times a day he'll go to it and play with the things.

Since we've started talking so much about big feelings he's been able to use words to say he's angry instead of using his body.  He's also been asking to read a few of the books over and over again and asks questions about what's going on in the stories. Does that mean that every time he has a big feeling he manages it appropriately? Absolutely not, but he's on the way to using his words and expressing himself in a safe way.

Looking for more ideas and products to teach your child coping skills?

Take a look at our sister site, Coping Skills for Kids!

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