Dr. Goleman has demonstrated how younger children have the power to manage their emotions in an exercise he calls Belly Buddies. “Children get their favorite stuffed animal, find a place on the carpet to lie down, put it on their belly, and watch it rise and fall on each breath. It’s focusing on mindfulness because the same neural circuitry that helps you concentrate and focus, also calms your physiology. This gives them a way to do it on their own. It empowers the child.”
Create a safety circle
My 7-year-old and I have a safety circle. In this circle, we sit face to face to create a feeling of equalness. She is allowed to share anything with me without the fear of consequence — unless it is against one of our “limits,” which include stealing, hurting someone else, intentional lying, and not taking responsibility for her actions, the last one a lesson I took from the speeding ticket.
“It is important to make sure you are setting firm, clear limits and you are staying consistent with those limits after you connect with the child,” said Quick. By staying in those boundaries, I am letting my daughter know that even though she can express herself freely, she still has a responsibility to be a good person.
Our safety circle is an imaginary place. A safe space can be a physical place, like a calming corner, but it’s more important that it be an emotional space between parent and child so that no matter where you are, you can connect. We begin with a hug and breathing to calm ourselves. Then, I allow her to speak openly.
Sloane Anderson, 7, of Atlanta, a friend of my daughter’s, showed me two safe spaces where she sits to talk with her parents: her top bunk, and a corner in her room that she calls her “school corner.” I asked her what she likes to talk about with her parents. “I like to talk to them about mistakes I’ve made and stuff like that,” she said. “My parents listen to me because they want to support me and they want to be there for me.”
Work with children on identifying emotions
“If your child is crying, instead of assuming they are sad, ask descriptive questions around what they feel, how it happened, and why they feel as they do,” Smith-Crawford said. “The child may discover that the emotion they feel is frustration instead of sadness. ”
Recently, I asked my daughter several times to put on her night clothes, and she became upset because she could hear the frustration in my voice after I asked her for the third time. She kept telling me she didn’t want to make me sad.