Big Feelings and how to 'Name it to tame it'

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.

Big Feelings and how to tame them

Flipping The Lid

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. (See this blog post on minimising meltdowns with empathetic listening).

Naming your feelings with The Grow Journal
Understanding how you feel with The Grow Journal

It's important to note that understanding how they're feeling doesn't mean you have to agree with it!

You're understanding is for the fact that they are experiencing an emotion, and that's ok.

Often just by showing them you 'get' what they're feeling, they'll be able to calm down, even without the outcome changing (ie they still have to come and eat dinner!).

And even if they aren't able to calm down in that moment, your understanding and emapthy shows them it's ok to have those feelings, and that their feelings are safe.

This Is Such A Gift

Because while they likely won't get upset about having to stop playing and come eat dinner when they're grown up, other things will upset them.

And your emapthy and validation in these early years will have helped them feel safe with these feelings, so they'll be able to handle them more easily then.

Helping our kids label their feelings is also great for broadening their emotional vocabulary, and building empathy.

For example, ‘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.

All of which helps build their empathy, and emotional intellgence, and consequently their mental and emotional well-being.

Each copy of The Grow Journal Kids Edition has a double page spread (which doubles as a colouring in activity) of the many different feelings we can experience, to be used as a tool for learning the names of our many different feelings.