When You've Got BIG Feelings - ParentPowered®

By Rebecca Honig, chief content & curriculum officer

NOTE: This blog post was written during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

If I had to write a family motto that really represents where we are at, right now, in this very moment in time, it would have to be: “We’ve got BIG feelings!”

The other morning, I asked my twelve-year-old what she wanted for breakfast and she stormed off saying, “That is such a stressful question.”

On a fifteen-minute car ride last week, one person bumped their elbow and that led to four people crying (note: I only have three children).

Our big feelings follow us all day. They especially like to make an appearance when we experience setbacks.

My daughter was drawing a picture the other day and one mistake led her to say, “I will never ever draw again for as long as I live. We can just give away all of our markers and crayons because I am DONE with them forever.”

Our feelings LOVE to take center stage when we are in transition. Getting out of the house has started to feel like a scene in an action movie-the one where the hero is hanging from a cliff and you are fairly certain they’re NOT going to make it. 

And no one is exempt.

Parents have Big Feelings, too

A few weeks back one of my children asked me for a glass of water and I responded with, “When you ask me for a glass of water it makes me want to cry.” And then I cried. And cried. And cried.

All the big feelings are making it hard to concentrate. They are making it hard to get things done. They are making it hard to listen.

I think my seven-year-old put it best on a recent walk when I asked him if he could hear any birds.

He responded with. “No.  My head is too noisy with feelings. I can’t hear anything.”

As we enter the school year, with so much uncertainty… one thing IS certain. We are ALL going show up, whether in person or virtually, with BIG FEELINGS.

And we are ALL going to need support in expressing and managing those feelings. And they’ll likely be those tricky feelings, the ones sitting right on the edge of becoming a really big deal. The ones that bang drums in our head as we try to focus and learn and teach.

Across the country there has been a cry to begin the school year with a strong focus on social and emotional skills and great care and attention paid to how children are feeling. There is also a great need to reach parents and caregivers with these same supports.

Here are some messages from our ParentPowered Trauma Informed program that focus on BIG FEELINGS. They offer simple everyday things families can do to recognize and manage emotions. Feel free to share them with your families!

And reach out to us if you’d like more information on ParentPowered Trauma Informed. It’s a yearlong family engagement program, delivered via text message, aligned with the Protective Factors Framework and aimed at helping families to buffer the effects of trauma.

Support for Preschool Children

  • FACT: Little kids have big emotions. When you help your child name their feelings, they’re better able to understand them and manage them too!
  • TIP: As you get ready for bed, play an emotion game. Whisper a feeling, like happy or sad. Then show each other the face you make when you are feeling that way.
  • GROWTH: Keep naming emotions! At points in the day, describe your child’s expression and ask about their feelings: “You are smiling. Are you feeling happy?”
  • FACT: A few deep breaths can help kids (and us!) calm down. That makes deep breathing a powerful tool for handling tough moments and emotions.
  • TIP: Practice deep breathing. At bedtime, sit together and hold up your fingers like candles. Show your child how to take a deep breath and blow them out. 
  • GROWTH: Keep taking deep breaths. When your child’s feeling frustrated, stop and sit with your child. Pretend to blow out finger candles together. Woosh!

Support for Parents and Caregivers

  • FACT: Your child’s feelings can trigger YOUR feelings. This is totally normal. It’s okay to take a moment to breathe and cope with your feelings before helping your child cope with theirs.
  • TIP: The next time your child is feeling angry or frustrated, check in with YOUR feelings. Take a second to pause. Ask yourself, “How am I feeling in this moment?”
  • GROWTH: Keep noticing your feelings. When you’re having strong emotions, pause and take a deep breath. Now ask yourself, “What’s the best thing I can do in this moment?”
  • FACT: At certain points in the day, it can be harder to parent. You may find that it’s tough in the morning when you’re rushed or at night when you’re tired. This is totally normal.
  • TIP: Before bed, think about a time of day when it’s harder to parent. What makes it hard? Just recognizing these moments can help you take a step towards making them easier.
  • GROWTH: Now as you near a challenging point in the day, think about 1 thing that makes you feel good. It may be a memory, a funny photo, a song. You’ve got this!

We also link families to local and national crisis supports, mental health specialists and parenting hotlines. Here are two supports you might consider sharing along with your local supports:

  • CONNECT: There’s support if you’ve experienced a crisis. Text HELLO to 741741. You’ll get connected to a Crisis Counselor within minutes.
  • CONNECT: Challenging times can be extra hard when you’re a parent. If powerful feelings and stress are making it hard to get through the day, reach out. Talking with others can help. Call (800) 985-5990 to be connected with a counselor.

By addressing the BIG FEELINGS of the entire family unit, we will all take a critical step in laying the foundation for a year of learning, whether it be remote, hybrid or in person.

Resources for You

Looking for even more information on big feelings to share with families? Check out these articles:

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About the author

Rebecca Honig is the Chief Content and Curriculum Officer at ParentPowered. She has authored numerous curricula, parent guides, and children’s storybooks for Sesame Workshop, Scholastic, Disney, Compass Learning, PBS, WGBH, HITN, Nickelodeon, Mo Willems, and The Norman Rockwell Museum. She has also served as a Curriculum and Content Specialist for Sesame Street and spent ten years teaching in public, private, and after school programs. Rebecca has a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education from Bank Street.

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