Anti-bullying Week – Talking about feelings for self-regulation

Today is the third day of Anti-Bullying Week and here at Hamish & Milo we are thinking about how the expression of feelings is key to our wellbeing.

Helping children to notice, recognise and begin to express how they’re feeling allows them to develop key emotional literacy skills such as self-awareness and self-regulation, which are vital for their emotional and social development.

Acknowledging that all emotions are valid and needed for us to be emotionally healthy, is a key part of the Hamish & Milo Wellbeing Intervention Programme. We avoid ever referring to emotions as negative, but instead acknowledge that some emotions can feel uncomfortable – but they are all valid, help us to recognise our experiences and help us to communicate our needs.

All children need multiple, repeated experiences of empathic adults noticing, labelling and validating their emotions in a safe, relational way; these experiences reinforce and acknowledge to the child that all feelings are acceptable and safe to have.

“This empathic engagement with a child enables a ‘felt’ sense of being understood and activates changes in the child’s neurological system allowing them to calm down, physiologically and psychologically.”

Clare Williams, Hamish & Milo Author

Sensation & Emotion Cards Prototype Pack Hamish & Milo
Child Self-Regulation Emotion Coaching
Hamish & Milo Emotion Cards ELSA Resources

Children need consistent experiences of feeling heard and valued by trusted and empathetic adults so they can begin to regulate themselves.

Self-regulation can only happen if they’ve had enough experience of being soothed, regulated and helped to name their emotions by these significant adults.

Spending time talking together is also an invaluable element of emotion coaching – exploring what our emotions are, how they present and how we can begin to make sense of them.

There are five core stages of emotion coaching:

  • Notice and respond to the child’s experience of the emotion whilst holding them in connection and care.

  • Label the emption and the ‘felt experience’ of the child to start building a broad vocabulary of feelings.

  • Validate the child’s experience of the emotion and the sensations they are feeling.

  • Respond to help and support the child through the emotional experience – without judging the feelings or offering advice – so that the child feels safe, cared about and able to survive the emotional experience.

  • Reflect together about what was happening and help them to express their thoughts and feelings.

The Hamish & Milo Sensation and Emotion Cards help children to recognise, communicate and express their feelings by developing their emotional awareness and vocabulary. The cards can be used with individual children or with groups of children and are a useful tool to open up conversations, validate experiences and allow curiosity in exploring a range of feelings, emotions and the context of experiences.

Creating an emotions story activity

As a great exercise for Anti-Bullying Week, and encouraging the children to think about the expression of feelings and wellbeing ask your children to create an emotions story.

  • Ask the children to use the blank body template to create the characters that will feature in their story. Encourage the children to think about each character in turn, think about what they might be thinking and feeling and write these into the speech bubbles.

  • Ask the children to draw what these thoughts and feelings (from their speech bubbles) may make their character look like, and draw the expressions onto the character blank body templates.

  • Using the table with ‘Setting’, ‘Plot’ and ‘Ending’, ask the children to first think about the ‘Setting’ so where their story is taking place and write it in the box provided. This allows them to connect emotions with a context.

  • Next, ask the children to describe the event, the ‘Plot’ and what is felt by both characters during the event – this can be written into the box provided.

  • Finally, ask the children to imagine an ‘Ending’ to their story. Writing down the dialogue leading to the ending will help the child to develop good emotional vocabulary and establish the foundation for self-regulation skills.

Anti-Bullying Week Emotion Story

Written by Andrea Middleton

Andrea Middleton Hamish & Milo Lead Consultant

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