Everybody is talking about how parents are coping with COVID19, working from home, having to homeschool, the amount of cleaning, cooking and 0 breaks they get.
But how our kids are coping with the effects of social isolation during the pandemic? Are they really aware of what's really going on? How are they reacting to their parents' stress? Are they able to identify how they are feeling? How can we help them dig into their own feelings, get them to express themselves in an effective way?
To answer these questions, we reached out to Haylee Bladen, a licensed clinical social worker and the founder and clinical director of Whole Kids Emotional Wellness. With 6 diverse locations throughout Utah, Haylee and her team of clinicians provide access to quality emotional wellness and mental health services to kids, teens and families. Her goal is to help each child feel empowered, find healing and grow to see their inner light. Haylee believes emotional wellness is for everyone and the sooner we learn these tools the easier it will be to navigate the challenges we face, because we've all got them! Haylee has 3 little girls, loves riding her bike, kayaking and a good peanut butter cup.
Haylee was also kind enough to also two Free Printables, available just below here.
Thank you so much, Haylee! Take it away:
"Children are very receptive to how their environment feels and if something is off or new. They are picking up on what adults are saying, along with our stress and anxiety levels on a daily basis.
Times of high stress for kids might show up as changes in behavior, like refusal to do typical tasks, crying, angry outbursts, acting clingy, bullying siblings, etc.
Right now, with everything going on in the world, we are seeing an increase in big emotions in little bodies, and big emotions in big bodies! Just like we as adults are experiencing some new thoughts and fears, our kids probably are too.
The first strategy to help our families develop emotional awareness is teaching younger children about basic emotions, followed by taking their emotional temperature.
One way to do this is by implementing a feelings thermometer and weather map.
A feelings thermometer is something we use to gauge how big our feelings are, using a scale from 1-5. For example, going to Disneyland or getting a new puppy might be a level 5 of happiness, while losing a pet might be a level 5 of sadness. Sometimes we feel more than one feeling at a time; doing chores might be a low level of happiness and a high level of boredom. As parents, the COVID-19 outbreak may give us stress at a level 4 or 5, but at the same time we might also feel grateful that our kids are home safe.
Teaching young children this skill of rating their feelings can be a powerful tool to truly understand what’s going on in their internal world.
Now, let’s talk about modeling behaviors. Modeling our feelings is a very important tool. If our kids hear us saying, "right now Mommy feels sad but I know in a few minutes I will feel happy again and that's okay," we are giving them permission to develop a healthy emotional language.
We can also teach them about feelings using weather as a model with the Feelings Weather Map. Some feelings come on quickly, like a tornado, and you might even feel like a tornado when you are mad. Some days your feelings might be like a warm summer day.
We can also feel sprinkles of sadness, or thunder and lightning pounding in our heart when we are sad or scared.
There's no wrong way to describe feelings. Once kids share their feelings and the level of intensity they can process them, play them out with toys, even color or draw them. It doesn’t need to be complicated.
For very young children, labeling their feelings for them when they aren’t able to do so themselves is a building block: “Right now you are feeling some big sadness because you can’t have a treat before dinner.” This can help them begin to develop awareness of their feelings so that they will eventually be able to take their own emotional temperature.
The most important thing is to allow emotions in our homes. We feel sad, mad, happy, scared, bored, annoyed, excited and so many other things in our homes. This is normal and healthy. Feelings come and go, just like the weather. This is a good thing. It means we are alive, it means we care, and it means we can help each other and grow!
To start taking your kids Feeling Temperature and navigating their Feelings Weather Map, download Haylee's Free Printables here:
If you'd like to work with Haylee, her practice is now offering telehealth sessions.