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The Feelings Game: A Strategy To Manage Big Feelings

We have a LOT of big feelings in our house. A lot. (If you know us personally you're nodding or laughing.... you know.) All six of us I would classify as "Big Feelers". Not only do we feel all the things, but we are pretty skilled in expressing those feelings.

I got broken in really well with my first-born in learning to parent a big feeler. Laura Kate, my oldest was very verbally advanced and could appropriately tell me how she felt, by age 2. But 2 year olds don't know what to do with big feelings, at least not constructively. By the time she turned three, I started to feel a little bit of a loss of how to help her manage her feelings. I was talking to my mom about it one day and she helped me come up with "The Feelings Game".

Here's how it works. Whenever you have a day where you notice your child is having explosive emotions (it could be ANY of them: anger, sadness, frustrations, even happiness or joy), choose a time in your day to play the game. For us, it was also a good time to snuggle. So I either pull my kids into my lap in my rocking chair or lay down beside them before rest time, and I say "Let's play the feelings game!"

I start by asking "What's something that you feel sad about?" and then wait for the answer.

They might respond "I don't want to take a nap".

So you respond simply by repeating what they say in a calm voice. "You don't want to take a nap".

Don't respond by saying "Don't feel that way!" All you are doing in this game is giving your child an outlet to say why they are "sad, mad, happy, frustrated, etc..." and then affirming that you hear them. This isn't the time to discipline or fix bad attitudes. This is providing an outlet and practicing a constructive way to express those emotions that we all feel.

After they answer a question and you repeat respond, ask about a different feeling....

"What is something that you feel frustrated about?

"..... that you feel happy about?"

"...... that you feel mad about?"

"..... that you feel excited about?"

In my experience with this game, by giving my kids an outlet to express their big feelings, they are able to calm down and handle their day better overall.

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