A useful way of thinking of emotions is to think of them as visitors to your body that come, and then go. It is a really obvious idea but it can help children start to observe their emotions in a mindful way. When we start to be able to acknowledge and witness emotions as they arise, we become far more conscious about the impact they have and we can have much more control over how we respond to them. When we start to see emotions as if we are watching them and curious about them, rather than completely identifying with them and them consuming us, we are far more likely to be able to make decisions that won’t mean our emotions make situations worse. Emotions ‘visiting us’ rather than them ‘becoming us’ helps children to start to do this.
This idea can be taken further by discussing with a young child what it is like when different emotions visit. You could take this idea further and ask your child to draw emotions as different characters. You can ask what colour they are, what facial expression they have, how they speak, what shape they are, how they walk etc. You can then explore the idea of what happens when different emotions visit. You can ask your child to think about:
- Where you feel each in the body when they visit
- How enjoyable or unenjoyable it is to have different visitors/emotions
- How long different emotions tend to visit for
- How noticeable the visitor is
- What message each visitor could be trying to tell you
- How they might try to make you behave
- What might it be a good idea to tell your visitor?
- How often each visitor tends to visit
- Why the emotion visited (the trigger)
- What helps the visitor (coping strategies)
- What it’s like once the visitor has left
You could gather up information about each visitor/emotion and create a book about each character with your child.