In my recent post, I talked about pain journaling as a way to release negative emotions so they don’t cause problems in our lives.
I want my whole family to experience the benefits of releasing, rather than repressing, negative emotions, before they manifest themselves as heath issues, physical pain, anxiety, or depression.
Journaling For Children
Journaling out big emotions, such as anger, guilt, or sadness, is also very helpful for children.
If your child is able to write, you can show them how to write his or her feelings in a journal. You can show them how to express negative feelings as I described in my post about pain journaling, and you can also show them how to write down any feelings they want to express, happy or sad or in between.
Of course spelling doesn’t matter. If they would like to make sure that only they can read the thoughts they write down, you can show them how to write in their own “secret code” by putting just the first letters of words. This way, they have the benefit of writing it all down, with no worries about anyone else reading it.
They can also draw pictures to represent how they feel, or to illustrate their words.
You can give them a special journal or notebook for this, or you can encourage them to grab a sheet of paper and just toss it in the recycle bin when they’re done.
For younger children, any kind of coloring when they feel angry or upset or hurt can serve a similar purpose. You can suggest that they color out their anger or bad feelings.
It could be a picture of how they feel, a picture of an angry face, or just putting a red crayon to the page and scribbling as hard as they can.
Also, you needn’t necessarily give them instruction. Often they will intuitively just do it if you provide the paper and crayons and suggest that they draw how they’re feeling or just color while they are upset.
More Anger-Releasing Strategies For the Whole Family
The Family that Colors Together…
Individuals can also do it on an as-needed basis.
To make it easy and help everyone remember that it’s an option, you can leave crayons and white computer paper on the table or in a visible, accessible area.
Talk to your children about how coloring when we’re feeling angry or upset can help us feel better, and then make sure to model it. Grab a sheet of paper and sit down and just color. I often find that just creating washes of color is calming to me. You and your children can draw whatever you want.
You can also use coloring books, and there are so many great options for adults these days, too.
Put Them in Their Place
You could also create an anger jar (or a feelings jar).
Just get a big jar and put a pen and small pieces of paper near it. Show them how to write down whatever is making them angry… “I’m mad because my sister won’t share her toy!!” or “I’m angry because Mommy said No to me.” and then they can crumple it up and throw it in the jar.
If you want you could write “I’m mad because” and “I am angry because” on some of the papers for them. Younger children can draw or scribble and throw that in the jar when they’re angry or upset.
When you feel angry or irritated you can model appropriate responses to those feelings by speaking out your feelings, and you could also write them down, crumple them up, and put them in the jar.
We have tried a variation on this, which is the “Feelings Box.” Just grab a cardboard box (we always seem to have Amazon boxes lying around that have yet to get out to the recycling). You can let your child write “Feelings Box” on the outside.
Then show them how to grab a sheet of paper (paper headed to recycling is good for this), write or scribble their feelings on it, then crumple it up and throw it in the box. When your own emotions are running high, it’s a great way to model a healthy way to deal with anger.
We’re still near the beginning stages of trying this, but it has worked really well at times. I need to make sure we have the box and paper accessible when we need it. (And you never know when you might need it!) So I think I will start putting paper and writing utensils in it. That way the paper and pen are easy to find when big feelings arise.
Another idea I have is to keep this in the children’s bedroom so that they can go there to release their emotions and also have some quiet time to themselves to calm down.
I want to share with you an excellent resource I found recently, a book called A Volcano In My Tummy. This has fantastic ideas and activities for helping little ones deal with anger in effective ways.
It includes the Anger Rules, which are great for children (and adults!) to know and remember:
“It’s OK to feel angry BUT
- Don’t hurt others
- Don’t hurt yourself
- Don’t hurt property
—DO talk about it.”
Talk About Our Feelings
Another way to allow feelings through so they don’t build up and cause an explosion is speaking them out in words.
As it says in the Anger Rules above, DO talk about them.
We can teach our children overtly to do this. Start by talking about things that make them angry, and then give some examples of what they might say in those situations.
We might say, “What is something that makes you really mad?” Maybe your child will answer, “When my sister takes my toy and won’t give it back.” Then you can say, “When that happens, you can say, ‘I’m really mad!’ You can also tell her what you want. ‘I want my toy back!'”
It is important to model this for our children. Undoubtedly your children will push your buttons sometimes (unless you have strange, otherworldly angel children, in which case, I don’t want to hear about it).
This is the perfect chance for you to show them how it’s done. Say, “I’m feeling really angry right now. I’m going to take some deep breaths.” or “I’m feeling really frustrated.” or “I’m angry and I’m going to go take a few breaths and come back.” Or “I’m feeling pretty upset and angry right now. I’m going to go crumple some paper and put it in the feelings box.” :)
Actually seeing you do this is a great way to reinforce the strategies you teach them. It also sends the message that feeling angry is okay and normal.
And when your children use their words to speak out their feelings, it helps them to feel better. Sometimes just saying the words is enough.
One other point I want to mention is that we need to listen to and validate our children’s feelings. We can do this in various ways, such as through echoing what they’re saying, “Yeah, I can tell you’re really mad.” or even by speaking out their feelings for them if they’re not to the point of articulating them for themselves. “You’re really mad right now because you wanted that toy.”
I recommend experimenting with what works for your child. If they seem annoyed by you echoing their emotions, then just nodding in agreement might be the way to go. But if they’re talking to you, they need to know that you hear them, you understand, and their feelings are normal and okay.
We all have a need to feel heard and understood, and our children are no exception. When children feel like they and their feelings are accepted, they feel better and are better equipped to make good decisions about how to behave. I think that sometimes acting out and misbehaving are based in frustration at feeling like their feelings don’t matter.
No, we can’t always do or have everything we want, but it sure does help when we know that somebody else understands how we feel. It’s the same for our children.
Books About Helping Children Deal With Anger
The first of these books is written for adults, but it has reprintable worksheets and activities that parents can do with their children. The second one is written directly to children.
A Volcano In My Tummy Helping Children to Handle Anger by Eliane Whitehouse and Warwick Pudney
What to Do When Your Temper Flares: A Kid’s Guide to Overcoming Problems with Anger by Dawn Huebner
Being able to express our feelings is so powerful, for all of us.
And it’s a beautiful and important gift for our children to learn so they can deal effectively with their big emotions and live happily in themselves and with others.
And it’s so important to remember that all of our feelings are okay. We are human. It’s what we do that matters.
May we all let our feelings through in effective ways so we can live happier and healthier lives.
Over to You
In this article I share some ways to deal with anger that have been helpful in my family. What about you? I’d love to hear your ideas and what has worked for you and your children. Leave a comment below, and I’d love for you to continue the discussion in the community. Click here to sign up.
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