When is the last time you sat down and tried to describe the emotions you were feeling, either by saying them out loud or writing them down?
Perhaps you keep a journal. Or perhaps you openly speak about how you feel to a spouse or a friend. Or maybe you are one to simply keep your emotions to yourself.
However you express your feelings, it’s safe to say that the emotional state of most people has been in turmoil over the past year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Anxiety, trauma, stress, fright, and many other feelings have taken up space in our minds and bodies for more than 12 months … and those emotions can be difficult to both recognize and regulate.
If it’s hard for adults to identify and manage our emotions at this time, imagine how difficult it is for children -- especially those children with complex challenges like autism and ADHD.
Children with complex challenges struggle with expressing their emotions because they have not developed sufficient emotional awareness or vocabulary to talk about what they are experiencing internally. Add to that difficulties with emotional regulation, self-awareness, vocabulary, and social communication, and the task of talking about feelings becomes even more complicated.
This problem often multiplies on itself: a child experiences trauma, uncertainty, separation from the community, and anxiety (the way all of us have during the pandemic) but cannot identify what they are feeling or form the words to describe it. So, they act out or withdraw -- and then experience trauma, uncertainty, separation from the community, and anxiety. It goes on and on in a downward spiral.
How can we, as parents and educators, stop this cycle and help children understand and talk about their emotions?
For this month’s TQS Book Club, I’ll offer a little spot of help in this area by featuring Diane Alber’s A Little SPOT of Emotions Box Set.
The easy-to-read-and-comprehend stories in this set follow a literal “spot” as it learns how to identify and deal with its emotions. The set covers everything from anger, to confidence, to love and more.
A Little Spot of Happiness is a great place to start. This book talks about how having a positive mindset can help you overcome obstacles and grow your own happiness.
From there, A Little Spot of Sadness deals with empathy and compassion, and A Little Spot of Anxiety can help children calm their worries.
The entire box set is worth a read, as are the rest of the books by Alber, who is an author, artist, and mother of two young children. Alber says her books are written for children up to age 9, but I still use them with my 11-year-old daughter (and often find them helpful myself!).
Unfortunately, we have all experienced sadness and anxiety, and these books are a wonderful way to give your child with complex challenges the awareness and vocabulary to begin processing these emotions.
Do you have any other book suggestions for helping children identify and manage their emotions? Share in the comments below, join the conversation on Facebook, and make sure you subscribe to this blog so you don’t miss future TQS Book Club recommendations!