One of the biggest objectives I have for the kids that graduate from my care, is for them to have the ability to freely emote and use acceptable strategies to both hold and channel their feelings. After a particularly rough week with the kids, I realized that I had sorta lost track of my own processing skill set. It became hard to expect toddlers to proficiently manage feelings when I had gotten into the bad habit of my eyes going blank every time a kid's scream hit a particularly brutal octave.
So this month, I went back to the drawing board with my own strategies for processing my emotion, and I went to work researching ideas for how to offer new skill sets to the kiddos. My approach is twofold; I am teaching them new descriptor words to increase their emotional lexicon, and I'm expanding their toolbox for ways to hold and move unfavorable energies in and through their little bodies.
In addition to common emotion words like "mad", "angry" "sad", and "frustrated", I'm introducing words like, "lonely", "afraid", and "unheard". I've drawn corresponding emojis on balloons filled with play dough as stress-ball squeezies the kids can defer to to both calm down, and find a corresponding expression to how they feel. I feel like a lot of outbursts stem from a child's inability to put the right articulation to what they are feeling. If they are able to put a name to an emotion, they are more likely to choose an appropriate outlet through which to channel it.
To expand the "calming strategy" toolbox, I printed out and laminated a little booklet that we're going to start reading during circle time. It's illustrations of different activities like "breathing", "reading a book", "pushing against the wall", or "yoga", and the idea is to get the kids thinking about possible alternatives to feeling upset that can hopefully steer them away from hopping straight to a scream.
I haven't had the chance to pull this little booklet out mid-conflict, but I imagine when I do it'll either get hurled at the wall or maybe---- just maybe, they'll redirect their emotion toward one of the other options I present to them.