The first movie ‘J’ ever sat through in its entirety was Pixar’s Inside Out. If you’re unfamiliar with the movie, it takes viewers through the inner workings of an 11 year old’s mind. We get to see how her feelings, dreams and thoughts affect her daily life. The main characters consist of 5 feelings: Joy, Sadness, Anger, Disgust and Fear. I’d say those are 5 feelings everyone finds relatable.
I’m not sure I know many adults that understand their feelings so it makes complete sense that navigating feelings for a child is not an easy task. When ‘J’ started being affected by my niece crying or his sister crying, he also became extra sensitive to talking about any negative feeling. If you made a sad face as you were playing, it would result in crying from ‘J.’ If an adult said “oh, that makes me sad” or “oh I’m going to cry,” he would immediately react. We have Inside Out Box of Mixed Emotions books, one for each feeling. He got to the point of not wanting to read Sadness’ book. It broke my heart to see how affected he became by just the mention of a feeling.
Although I was starting to suspect that there may be some sensory processing issues going on, I also wasn’t sure if he was going through a phase. I started looking into other books that talked about feelings, singing Daniel Tiger songs about feelings and was even trying to get him to talk through his tantrums. For a 3 year old, whose words are still catching up to his mind, this was a lot of work. And again, for an adult, this is a lot of work. I didn’t want to push him too much and risk him keeping everything inside.
One of the books I got was “The Way I Feel” by Janan Cain. It goes through all the feelings one could have: silliness, frustration, happiness, boredom and many more. There are pictures associated with each feeling’s description to help the child understand it even more. I mentioned Daniel Tiger songs, but I also picked up Daniel Tiger Happy and Sad books. The show, the songs and his books tackle so many things that kids go through and I find it really helpful. Once we were getting through our Mickey Mouse Clubhouse addiction, ‘J’ had moved into Daniel Tiger and I’m glad he did. We countdown to calm down just like Daniel and associate different situations to how Daniel has handled them. What does Daniel do when he gets mad? How did Daniel feel when his sister wanted to play? What happens when Daniel’s friends didn’t want to play with him? What did Daniel do that was kind? The list goes on!
Feelings are so tough to navigate and if you’re someone that has sensory processing difficulties and becomes overwhelmed in a lot of situations, it becomes even tougher. Whatever tools you can use to help are worth trying. Books, shows and songs are great for kids since they are drawn to those things already. They’re learning without realizing they’re doing any work. It’s kind of like sneaking vegetables into their cupcakes ;-).
I will always try to get my kids to talk through their feelings. Even when they’re teenagers and they find me extra annoying. Communication is one of the most important tools in life and the sooner they’re able to have that in their tool box, the better!
Below are links to the various books on Feelings as referenced above: