Among my mom friends we often find ourselves uttering the phrase “little people with big emotions”. It seems to be not only a term of solidarity but a gentle reminder that the tantrums we find ourselves navigating with our little ones are the result of a barrier in communication.
Imagining yourself in a world where not only do you not know what you are feeling but you also can’t tell anyone what you are feeling or ask for help. Those strong emotions ultimately manifest in physical actions, and then we as parents get frustrated because those actions are almost always undesired behaviors.
So what can we do?
One of the things I rely on heavily is verbal and visual labeling. I’m not sure if it’s the ‘right’ thing to do or even if there is a ‘right’ thing to do, but it’s the approach I’ve been taking.
Conversations in the heat of the moment can be challenging so I am finding it important to have these conversations during our calm time too.
Identification such as
“Wow, you look excited. Your smile is really big!” or
“I can see and hear that you might be getting frustrated. Your eyebrows are down and you are growling. Would you like some help?”
I can’t say that I am remembering to do this every time, but I am trying. I am trying to remember that I am here to help him navigate these emotions and also put a name to them so we can more easily identify and work with them later.
Which brings me to my toolbox.
What can I use while we are out and about, or just at home, to continue this process of learning such a hefty concept?
Well emotion cards are no new thing. There are tons of resources out there for emotions and learning to identify and cope such as games and books. Heck there are even a ton of resources for creating emotion cards.
Of course I wasn’t thrilled with the aesthetics of many of the emotion cards out there so I decided to make my own.
I wanted the cards to all feature the same character so we can easily identify just the differences in facial expressions. I would love to do a more inclusive set in the future so that many children would be represented.
To begin I sat down with my sketchbook and tried to identify the emotions we were dealing with the most. I decided to start with 6 or 8 and add more in later. My ‘to add list’ current consists of about 4 more including things like “shy” and “playful” .
After sketching out a few ideas I transferred the drawings to watercolour paper and began to outline and colour. It was great self care for me and very relaxing but I was not happy with the way they were looking so I scraped those drawings all together and took to a digital inkbrush on my computer.
Moving much more quickly now I was able to create 8 cards rather quickly but I still wanted that relaxing “me time” of colouring them in and making them truly one of a kind.
I printed the images like I would print out colouring pages for my son and grabbed some markers and watercolour pencils.
Once i figured out my palette using COPIC markers and DERWENT watercolour pencils I spent some quiet time to myself after everyone was asleep (and I should have been too) and I coloured them in by hand.
The next morning I got out our trusty card laminator and sent each card thru the laminator, let them cool and then introduced them to the boy.
He immediately identified with the “happy” and “excited” cards. His first reaction was to flip through them all but he kept returning to the ones he liked best, the positive emotion cards. This tells me that I likely need to focus on more positive emotions . After coming back to them a little later on, he expressed concern for the “angry”, “worried” and “frustrated” boys..
His empathy has always been strong and so I am not entirely surprised that the unhappy boys caused him concern.
The cards will be bound with a ring so they can clip onto our diaper bag and come along with us. I’d just like to ensure I perfect the set to meet our needs, figuring out what emotions we are tackling the most as well as what emotions we need to identify that we see in others because the emotions of others can be confusing (even for me as an adult) and identifying those will also help us to understand social cues.
Would you like to start your own set of emotion cards?
Feel free to use the outlines that we are working with. You can print these sheets and colour them together or present them later as I did.
I hope they become a helpful part of your toolbox as well!
click on the images below to open up the colouring sheets in a new tab.