Managing large emotions was the topic for Nikki and my discussion in our recent webinar. Thank you to everyone who joined us. It’s wonderful to have so many engaged, caring, switched on parents and teachers participating in these discussions.
Please continue to send in your questions and also requests for future webinar topics. We love hearing from you and how we can best support you and all the amazing work you’re doing out there in your homes and classrooms. If you missed the webinar you can download the recording here.
We opened our discussion about the topic of managing large emotions by reminding ourselves of the important point that large emotions are OK! Any emotions are okay. They are not wrong. They are not bad. In fact, they are inherently good. Emotions are what make us human, and they give us important information, which, if we learn to listen to and comprehend wisely, helps us navigate through life.
Before we had the modern science that informs us of the importance of emotional intelligence, we may have been brought up to think that emotions were bad, or that they shouldn’t be expressed, or that we should push them down and learn ways to ignore them, or that showing emotion made you weak…
What is your narrative around emotions? Take a moment and think about how you would describe the emotional climate in the home you grew up in? How were emotions thought about and talked about? What were you taught about emotions?
It’s important for us to reflect as adults in order that we can become aware of our perceptional filters and biases, as these influence how we interact with our children and contribute to the formation of their own narratives around emotions.
We now know that it is critically important for our children – the next generation of leaders – to have a healthy and broad understanding of emotions. Emotional intelligence predicts success in life in terms of health, happiness, job satisfaction, academic achievements and satisfying relationships.
So it’s important for us to teach our children that emotions are normal, healthy and good and that it’s okay to feel them.
Next we can move to educating about emotional management and tools and skills to learn to help them move away from their large emotions. When we’re angry, disappointed or fearful for example, it affects how our brain works. It’s more difficult to learn and remember things and impacts our decision making and ability to think creatively. For a young child this could be translated to mean you’re just not going to be able to have as much fun when you’re in the throws of a big emotion, so let me teach you some tools and skills to help you to know how to get out of that big emotion and back into a playing-ready state so you have it when you need it…
Older children enjoy learning how emotions affect their brain and body by throwing them into the fight /flight /freeze response for example and having the rush of associated chemicals affect their bodies in different ways. Noticing how different emotions have different effects on our brains and bodies gives us the power back over them.
Emotions only become a problem if we let them rule our lives. Experiencing anxiety isn’t a bad thing, for example, but it becomes a problem if it stops us from doing the things we’d like to do in life. Anger isn’t a bad thing, but it isn’t okay to hurt someone else or ourselves when we’re angry.
So learning to manage our emotions is key, and training our bodies to habitually take a mindful pause before taking action when we notice we’re experiencing a strong emotional response is a great way to start.
We love this quote from Victor Frankl:
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
During the webinar, we practised some of the many tools Life Skills has to offer, such as the presence practice, Journey into the Body, Wave Breath, Lazy 8s, plus we also practised the technique of coming back to our breath to calm our nervous system (going from fight and flight to rest and digest), as well as checking in on our thoughts /emotions /bodily sensations to see how we’re (really) feeling.
We talked about the importance of being able to label emotions (naming and taming) and therefore the need to be teaching our children a wide emotional vocabulary. There are so many creative ways to do this within families and classrooms and we’d love to hear how you’re implementing this. How are you teaching your children more feeling words and increasing their emotional vocabulary? We’d love to hear from you.
We’d also love to challenge you to commit to taking action. Emotional intelligence is a skill that needs to be practised just like any other skill. We need to have practised it so many times when we’re in a learning state that it becomes a habitual response when we are experiencing large emotions and we can put the tool in place without requiring our (now disconnected) thinking brain to do so. So which technique or tool are you going to commit to practising this week? And how are you going to teach your children a new feeling word this week?
We will continue the conversation about emotions with our next webinar on Moving from Anxiety to Calm. We look forward to seeing you there. In the meantime please don’t hesitate to get in contact with your questions and thoughts.
In the meantime, if you are looking for a resource to support your students to manage large emotions, why not sign up for a free trial of Life Skills GO for your school? Click here.
Have a great week and have fun flexing your emotion muscles!
Sally Boardman, BSc(Hons) MPhil(Psych)