How to Help Your Child Cope
I think most of us would agree that we are starting school in a much different format than we would have hoped for. Yet, one thing that will remain the same for our kids as they begin the year is navigating the sometimes tricky maze of relationships. Relationships with peers and interactions with teachers and staff are still bound to be murky waters at times over the course of the year. Even in the digital space with distance learning, there will still be lots of room for the “he said, she said”, for exclusion from certain groups or for misunderstandings that lead to hurt feelings.
How do we help our kids cope with this weight and thrive in their relationships?
Let’s take a page from Wonder Woman and Captain America’s playbooks. Both of these superheroes deflect “attacks” with their shields. We can help our kids by creating an “emotions shield”.
This shield is a reminder of key strategies kids can use to manage their feelings when they find themselves in an emotionally difficult situation. If someone says something that hurts them, if their best friend decides to be someone else’s best friend that day or if their teacher unknowingly puts them on the spot, their shield with its strategies can come to the rescue.
One of the wonderful things about this activity is that it is something you can create with your child. And it’s fun!
Let’s create the shield.
- Gather a few materials:
- To build the shield itself:
*Cardboard, cardstock or paper
- To decorate the shield (pick what works for you; here are a few suggestions)
*markers, crayons, or colored pencils
*anything you would like to use to make the shield reflect what your child likes
- To build the shield itself:
- Use your cardboard, cardstock or paper and cut a shape for your shield.
- The shape of the shield is totally up to you and your child. Pick a shape that your child loves.
- You might use a classic shield shape like in medieval times.
- A circle is also a great shape for a shield, just ask Wonder Woman and Captain America.
- If your child is into hexagons, go for it.
- Have fun decorating with the materials you gathered.
- The goal is for kids to decorate the shield in a way that is particular to them, in a way that makes them feel good.
- Bright pink with rainbows, yes!
- Pokemon, yes!
- The entire baby shark family, yes!
- Add the coping strategies.
- Have a talk with your child about ways in which she best likes to return to feeling calm if she gets upset.
- Create a visual symbol that might represent each of these strategies.
- On the outside or the inside of the shield, write out the strategies or draw the symbol.
- Here are a few strategies that I have created with kids
*Take a deep breath. (You might draw a nose for breathing.)
*Close eyes and relax. (You might draw closed eyes.)
*Squeeze a stress ball. (Draw the ball.)
*Use positive self-talk. (Draw a speech bubble with a positive phrase inside.)
*Write in my journal. (Draw the cover of the journal)
*Think of my dog or my happy place like the beach. (Draw what makes you happy.)
*Listen to music. (Draw earbuds? Musical notes?)
*It’s your turn! Get your creative juices flowing.
I hope you and your child really got into creating your shield which especially reflects who they are and that you had fun together.
How to Use the Shield (for caregivers and mental health providers)
- Take out the amazing shield.
- Ask your child to remember a time when they were angry, sad, frustrated, upset, etc.
- Look at the shield and ask the child to choose which of the strategies on the shield could have helped them to return to being calm.
- You might have the child work through a few more of these situations.
- Tell the child that they can IMAGINE their shield and the strategies, for the times when they do not have the shield with them.
- Remind them that using the shield and the strategies will help them to not be bothered by the other person.
- You might also encourage the child to visualize not allowing that person’s energy to trouble them. They can visualize their shield blocking the rays of the other person’s energy.
Taking a mental step back
The Emotions Shield is a beautiful way for kids to mentally take a step back, to separate themselves from the situation for a short while and to find a new, calmer place from which to respond. If you try this activity with your child, I would love to see the shields that you create. If you don’t mind sharing, please post a photo of your shield and how you are using the shield in the comments below.