We all worry about our kids learning to control their emotions. After all, it’s emotions that so often get us off track and into trouble! The Genius of Play, is a national movement with a mission to give families the information and inspiration needed to make play an important part of every child’s life. Fortunately, play can serve as a key tool in helping your child manage their emotions. Play provides children with an opportunity to not only learn how to express themselves, but how to explore and understand their wide range of feelings.
Through play, children learn to cope with emotions as they act out feelings such as anger, sadness or fear, in a situation they control. Imaginative play allows them to think out loud about experiences charged with both pleasant and unpleasant feelings, creating a safe outlet for self expression and self exploration. Plus, by giving children a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, play can help build their confidence and self-esteem.
Erik A. Fisher, Ph.D, aka Dr. E…TM, Emotional Dynamics Expert at Genius of Play, has been changing the lives of children, teens and adults for two decades by encouraging self-empowerment through play.
He opens our discussion by stating that ” often children take their lead on how they learn about their emotions from the adults that guide them. Many of us received very little education on how to manage emotions or the purpose of emotions when we were children, so knowing what to do with your own kids when it comes to emotion can be challenging. I believe that emotions are all there to tell us and teach us about life. For example, the purpose of Anger is to protect. The purpose of Failure is that it tells us when it is time to learn, the purpose of Guilt is that it lets us know when we have done something to others that we need to fix.”
“Too often, we are taught to ignore what our emotions may be trying to tell us, and all too often, many adults don’t know what to do with the emotions that they are feeling. Unfortunately, when adults do not understand, it is difficult for them to properly educate their children.”
“It is for that reason that I often recommend that parents learn right along with their kids and even let their kids be teachers to them. The Genius of Play is a great way for parents to learn about the value of play in various domains, including emotional realms, and I always encourage parents to take a look. I also recommend my parenting book, The Art of Empowered Parenting: The Manual You Wish Your Kids Came With that discusses power, emotion, and how we can learn to manage these challenging aspects of life.”
The Genius of Play, is excited to share some of their favorite play ideas that focus on emotional development and teach children how to express and regulate their emotions.
· This is a great time to use role playing and engage imagination to work through emotions. Kids at this age are often playing with dolls, puppets and may be starting to play with action figures. Watch the themes of how they play with these toys and the emotions that they may demonstrate through their play. As they may be playing, be willing to get on the floor with them, play and talk about what is going on with their characters and what they may be feeling. You can also play out some of the challenges that they may be having with others through the dolls and show how they can work out their difficulties by you taking on their role. Ask them what the other characters may be feeling when they may play these roles.
· Many children may be exposed to many of the cards, blocks, images, and emoji that denote various emotions. These images that help children identify emotions can be helpful for kids to visually identify what they are feeling so that an adult can help connect the words with the emotions. As these emotions are discussed, let your kids know that these emotions aren’t bad or wrong. They are trying to tell us something. It is the choices that we make when we feel these emotions that we want to be aware of to change. Understanding protective emotions like Anger, Rage, Hatred, Defiance, Sarcasm, Flippancy and Arrogance are trying to help us look strong when we feel weakness inside.
· Kids have been in school for a few years. They are learning to grasp emotions and experiencing better emotional regulation as their brains also develop. However, the patterns of emotional expression that they learn now can be harder and harder to reverse if they are reinforced and/or if new patterns aren’t learned. While it is always a good time to work on discussing emotions and what they are teaching us, helping to find healthy ways to express them is also important. Charades can be a great game for kids to act out emotions. Making your own game of emotional charades can be a good way to see how your kids view emotions and even to discuss them after a round.
· There are also many board games and books that help kids become aware of various emotions. Exposing them to the uniqueness of each emotion through play and helping them to understand them will be adding to their skill set in real life situations.
· This is a year that kids are still kids, and some are getting closer to adolescence. For some, they are still interested in children’s games, and the same games, cards and emoji can still be helpful to discuss emotions, while for some who want to associate with “older age” activities, they may show no interest in the games of “children”. The issue is that even though kids at this age want to be older, their brains are not developed and they are often playing the emotional games and “writing the emotional checks that they can’t cash”. Making sure that they are processing and understanding emotions is so important at this time of life. Playing games that involve perspective taking, communication, listening closely to how they see the world can help this. Don’t just listen to them when they are aware that you are around, listen when they don’t realize that you are listening. There are many role-playing games that give opportunities to share emotions and see inside of them, as well.
Most importantly, at any age your kids are, Eric suggests that you play with them, and no matter what you are playing talk with them, ask them about how they see life, how they feel about themselves and others, how they feel about you as a parent…
It is often when distracted by a game that kids will share more. Listen without judgment, and ask more questions than telling them what to do.
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