‘Big Feelings’ and how to ‘Name it to tame it’

girl dealing with big emotions

Have you ever noticed that when your kids are experiencing ‘big feelings’ as we call them in our house, they sometimes seem to lose control? This is also known as ‘flipping your lid’ and means that they are no longer thinking and acting clearly. Usually our left brain (logic and language) and right brain (visual, emotional and intuitive) are connected and work together. Our left brain gives logical structure and meaning to the emotional experiences of our right brain. When our kids experience big feelings, the lid ‘flips’ and there is disconnect between the two parts of the brain. They feel out of control, because this is exactly what has happened. The ‘feeling’ right brain is out of the control of the rational and calming influence of the left brain.

This is where naming feelings comes into play. By giving the feeling a label for our kids, we give it structure and meaning. It’s like we are shining a light on it so it stops coming at them from the dark. They can start to get a sense of it, get a handle on it and begin dealing with it. So it might look like this…“I can see that you're really upset because you don't want to stop what you're doing and come over to the table for dinner. You wish you could just keep playing. That sounds frustrating. I understand, I’d be frustrated too if I really wanted to keep doing something and I wasn't able to.” You have effectively ‘loaned’ them your left brain and now they have a chance to find their way back from their meltdown. Note, understanding how they're feeling doesn't mean you have to agree with it! But watch and see how just showing them you 'get' what they're feeling can help them calm down, even without the outcome changing (ie they still have to come and eat dinner!). 

Labelling feelings also broadens our kids emotional vocabulary and builds empathy. ‘Angry’ could also be frustrated, irritated, furious, enraged or jealous. As kids become more aware of their own emotional range, they become aware of and can identify with those feelings in others. As the cornerstone of emotional intelligence, empathy is so important to foster in our kids so they can thrive!

Each copy of The GROW Journal has a double page spread (which is also a colouring in activity if they like!) of the many different feelings we can experience which you can use as a tool to start teaching your kids the names of our many different feelings. We hope it helps!

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