- a. offer empathy
- b. ask questions
- c. reenact the scenario with empathetic language
Here's an example with just one child. (This is the adult end of the conversation):
Ex: "Oh darn. (a) That's how you're feeling huh? (b) Yeah I can see that, that makes sense. (a) You feel like this one too? (b) Oh wow. That's hard. (a) You were just playing happily and the cat came along and bit you on the arm? (c) Darn-nit. (a) That's not what you wanted at all is it. (a) You didn't do anything to the cat you were just playing. (c) You didn't want to be bitten. (c) You like the cat, you weren't trying to bother it. (c) And then he just bit you for no reason at all! (c) What a bummer huh?"
Here's an example when two children are involved. (This is the adult end of the conversation):
"Oh shoot. You guys are having a hard time huh? Which ones do you feel like Abby... This one? Oh yeah. This one too? And this one? Wow, that's a tough combo huh? What about you Nellie. Which ones are you feeling like... Oh, that one huh? This one too? Oh, sure, I can see that."
"So Abby you were playing and it seemed like from your perspective that Nellie just grabbed that toy away from you huh? You were so mad about that. Yeah, that makes sense. Sure. And you were so mad that you just hit her huh? You were so mad. You don't want someone to take away the things you are using. It doesn't feel good. Sounds like you were frustrated too, like this drawing, am I right? Wow. Yeah, that's hard."
"And Nellie you saw this toy just lying there and it looked completely available. You didn't know Abby was playing with it. Were you so surprised when Abby hit you? Like this drawing here? And it hurt too? I bet. What a terrible surprise to suddenly be hit. Did you get mad then? You did? Is that why you picked this drawing here? Sure, that makes sense. You don't like being hit at all. You want to be able to play in safety and not have to worry about being hurt. When she hit you you were you mad, like this drawing? Or sad, like this one... A bit of a combo huh. Oh darn you guys that sounds so hard."
This stage can last anywhere from a couple minutes to several minutes. As a rule of thumb we recommend staying here, even silently, for AT LEAST two solid minutes.
4. Look for signs that emotions have shifted.
Facial expressions, body postures, lighter spirits, joking, and physical affection are all signs that emotions are starting to shift. This may be the end of the process! Often children, at this point, have moved completely on and are unburdened by their previous emotions. They are ready for solutions and cooperation and affection. At our house we often ask if our girls need to talk more, and if not we seal it with a hug and carry on.
If it seems that things have not shifted, return to step 3, or try 4a.
4a. Ask your child which images on the poster she would rather feel like.
Ex: "Yes, I can imagine that. You want to feel good and smiling and happy. You'd much rather feel like this drawing, or this one. Of course. Darn. You don't like where you are. You can imagine what these drawings feel like and you want that. Totally."
4c. Gently ask your child what he needs in order to feel more like the drawings he chose. Offer ideas as well.
Ex: "What do you think you might need to feel the way you'd like?"
Wait here for several beats before jumping to solutions.
"Do you think food might help...?"
"Would you like a long hug...?"
"Do you want help coming up with an idea for the issue...?"
"Do you want some time just to be quiet...?"
Your child may grasp for one of one these options and may not. If you are having trouble figuring out some ideas to offer think about what need your child might have and offer a way to fill that need. Does she need reassurance? Sustenance? Does she need connection? For a full list of human needs visit this page.
5. Wait. When these steps seem to fail, or if your child isn't moving as quickly as you think he should, just wait. Remain in an empathetic stance, holding and hugging your child if they allow, and wait. We like to think of this position as a big, padded, boring envelope in which to surround your child. Children, unlike adults are comfortable with long pauses, they do not need you to fill the air with encouragement or maxims. Children in this state need only your empathy (even silent) and presence. With enough patience the feelings will pass.
NOTE: Absent from this dialog is: blame, punishment, praise, lesson-teaching, or parental opinions. This is a space exclusively created for the the processing of emotions. If you wish to give information about the rules of the house, point out who "started it", or mete out consequences this should be done (if at all) after the emotional processing is complete. This is to ensure that a. your words and logic can even be heard and understood, and b. your children feel safe and comfortable enough to express their true feelings while at the poster.
To order your own Feeleez poster for your home, office, or classroom please visit www.store.feeleez.com. The poster is $15 and printed on recycled paper using soy-based ink. We'd love to send you one.