Managing emotions is hard, even as adults. For our kids, it is even harder. How do we teach our kids to manage their own emotions without offsetting our own? I know it’s difficult to watch your child struggle with an emotion and not know how to handle it. But what if I told you that teaching them to manage their strong emotions is a lot easier than you think?
I struggle, as a parent, to manage my own emotions. But when I saw my son struggling, I wanted more than anything to help him. He often struggles with anger, and it usually triggers my anxiety. My anxiety then triggers my anger, and we’re stuck in a tornado of emotions. But no one gets out unscathed. We would both end up angrier and hurt from the disagreement. No good was coming of this. Something had to be done, and I wanted to help him.
Emotional Coping Skills
Teaching coping skills to children is important for their own emotional regulation. What are coping skills? We all need them and often use them. We do it without realizing. That run you take when you’re stressed, that’s a coping skill. The music you play to lighten your mood, another coping skill. We learn these, often, by trial and error. But for children, finding ways to manage their emotions is hard. They need us, as parents, to teach them. But what happens when you struggle to teach them coping skills? How do they learn?
Teaching Coping Skills (The Easy Way)
I had been doing research into coping skills and how to help kids manage emotions. I searched through Pinterest and Google but wasn’t coming up with much other than having them do an activity to calm down. But how would they know why we made them go color? Does this actually teach them anything? It could, but we had to have a better system. Which is why I created the Emotions Toolbox!
My son actually loves his Emotions Toolbox and uses it regularly (while unfortunate, but it’s showing me that it works). My son often struggles with angry outbursts and horrible tantrums. I was at the end of my rope. And I didn’t know what to do, or how I could help him. Trying the toolbox was a last ditch effort. I am so glad I did. It has helped so much!
How Does The Emotions Toolbox Work?
I took the idea of having the kids do an activity to calm down but added a tweak to it. The only way he would learn to recognize his emotions and calm himself with the activity was if he knew that the two were linked. So in creating the toolbox, I made sure to include a notebook and fun pencils for him. The rules for the Emotions Toolbox are to use the notebook and write a couple of sentences about what emotion he is feeling and why it made him feel that way. Following the notebook exercise, he is instructed to choose an activity from the box and do the activity for 10-15 minutes.
We have now used his Emotions Toolbox about 5 times. Each and every time he has gone off to do the exercise he comes back calm and happy. I swear by this. He enjoys it because I chose activities for the box that I know he likes. I like it because it helps him recognize and understand his emotions in the moment. The in the moment is the most important part because if we wait for them to calm down, the thought is long gone. Children move too fast for us to wait for the moment to pass. They struggle with recognizing the emotions in the first place, how are they going to reflect on it later?
My son has actually thanked me for making him the Emotions Toolbox. I couldn’t me any happier with the success it has had. Tantrums are now decreasing, and it’s easier to stop them in their tracks.
Creating Your Own Emotions Toolbox
Small plastic tote
5-6 simple activities that your child enjoys (Coloring books & crayons, play doh, and painting activities are a few that I chose for my son.)
Gather your activity supplies. I shopped at the Target Dollar Spot for most of mine. The dollar store is also a great choice to gather your supplies. You don’t want to spend a ton of money, just get 4-5 activities to place in the box so that your child has options when they go to use the Emotions Toolbox.
Print the Emotions Toolbox printable instructions. Grab your glue stick and paste it to the lid of your plastic tote. If you aren’t using a plastic tote, you can use a shoebox and just paste it inside the lid. Just be sure that you place it somewhere that your child will see it everytime they open the box up.
Put all of your activities into the box. There really is no other explanation for this. Pretty self-explanatory.
Explain to your child what the toolbox is for. This is the most important part. Sit down and have a talk with your child about their emotions. Tell them that you want to help them learn to manage their own emotions. If your child is struggling with certain emotions, be sure to bring those up. See if they are aware that they are struggling. This will give you an excellent starting point. By telling your child what the box is for and when they are to use it, you’ll have some ground rules set up.
Only use the box when their emotions are too difficult to manage. This is not a busy box. You don’t want to end up relying on the toolbox just to keep them busy. I urge you to make sure they are aware that the activities in this box are only for when they are having a hard time with feelings.
This method works so well I am daring you to try it with your children. I want to see how it works for your family. What do you use in your home to manage outbursts and big emotions?
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