Emotion management: the ‘gap’

Published Categorized as emotional literacy

As I have said in previous posts, part of emotional literacy is about having some ‘control’ over (or ‘good management of’) the behaviour that results from being in the grip of any particular emotion. We are so much more likely to do something damaging, hurtful or daft if we act while we are experiencing the adrenaline that has resulted from an intense emotion. This can include positive emotions (excitement can certainly make young children lose control) but mostly it is about emotions that are intensely uncomfortable such as anger, humiliation or hurt etc.

For effective emotion management therefore, it is about creating a ‘gap’ between the arousal of an emotion and the resultant behaviour. If a gap is created, the adrenaline will have subsided and there is more chance that any action taken will have been more thought through.

With younger children, you need to create this gap with simple but fully engaging activities. They can be physical activities or a thought-focus activity – anything that prevents them from immediately taking action when they are in a heightened state, such as:

  • Run on the spot
  • Ten deep breaths – counting down from ten
  • Mantras, ‘I do not need to react’, ‘stop’ ‘I have a choice how I behave’ ‘This anger will go soon’
  • close eyes and imagine another place
  • rub upper arms
  • Name the feeling – younger children can build up their feeling words, ‘I am feeling angry’
  • Feel and name what is going on physically – ‘I can feel it in my tummy, I am gritting my teeth etc’
  • Make a plan – ask for help, ignore the situation, think about the trouble you might get in