As I mentioned in my Mother’s Day posting, The Trouble with Motherhood, I’ve met a lot of unhappy parents in the last couple of months. Check out this Raising Happiness video from the Rachael Ray morning show and you’ll see what I mean. When I first watched that clip, all I could think was this: Dang I’d like to give those women a hug. Parenting is hard, but it doesn’t have to be that hard.
In the show, Rachael Ray refers to the “Family Feelings List” from my book Raising Happiness. We can build our kids’ social and emotional intelligence by working with them on the vocabulary that they have to describe their emotions. One way to do that is to simply start keeping a list of feelings to talk about, and practice talking about those emotions. Even if your kids aren’t comfortable talking about their feelings at first, it will help if you talk about your own feelings: When children hear adults talk about their feelings, they learn how to talk about their own emotions.
Create a Family Feelings List
(adapted from EQ and Your Child, by Eileen Healy)
This will help kids (and grown-ups!) become aware of their own and other family member’s emotions.
- Write “Things We Feel” at the top of a large piece of paper.
- Brainstorm feelings and emotions that you and your kids have felt. The idea is to generate a list of lots of feelings, not to edit or decide what is or isn’t an emotion. Vague descriptions like “left out” are fine.
- Post the list in a place where anyone can add to it anytime – and revisit it regularly.
- Start talking about the emotions on the Feelings List. At dinner or during a family meeting, take turns telling each other about a time when you each had a particular feeling on the list. Before you begin, make sure that everyone understands that no one is allowed to criticize, judge, or lecture about what is shared.
- Let kids put check marks by the emotions on the list when they feel them, assigning each family member their own color. This will help kids realize that other family members sometimes feel the same way they do, dissipating the sense of isolation that sometimes accompanies negative emotions.
- Decide on a feeling for everyone to watch for the following day. Next time, have everyone share their observations of that emotion. How did it make your body feel? What did the person’s face look like?
Please let me know how this activity worked for you. What did you get out of it that you didn’t expect to? What worked and what didn’t?
© 2010 Christine Carter, Ph.D.
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