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Simple Sew Feelings Softie: Exploring Big Emotions with Kids

Children can find talking about emotions difficult, even when supported. They might feel embarrassed, ashamed or uncomfortable, especially if the emotions in question are considered negative. However talking about and noticing feelings with children is a good habit to establish as talking about everyday feelings in regular conversation makes it easier to discuss the more difficult feelings as they arise. Often it’s easier to begin by talking about how someone else might be feeling – a sibling, a television character, or even this little interactive softie we named ‘Lester’. Lester is super simple to make but a fun feature of his design makes him a fabulous tool for exploring and discussing big emotions with kids.

Helping Children Manage Big Emotions Resources: Simple Sew Feelings Softie

Created from two pieces of felt sewn together and stuffed, Lester’s eyes are attached but his mouth has been left unglued so that it can be moved around to show the range of different emotions Lester might be feeling. Due to the fuzzy texture of the felt, if you press a small piece of felt firmly onto another, it will just stick.

Lester provides a simple and fun way to open conversations with kids about emotions. As you play around with the softie’s mouth, you can talk about what Lester might be feeling today, why he might be feeling that way, and what he might do to make himself feel better. Start with simple feelings; happy, sad, excited, tired, bored, angry, anxious/nervous/worried, confused or lonely.

Modelling behaviour is also a great way to encourage children to open up themselves, “Lester is feeling sad today. I remember I felt really sad when I lost my favourite necklace. Do you remember a time when you felt sad?” This will help a child to understand that everyone has emotions, good and bad, and that this is perfectly normal and not something to be ashamed of. Being able to recognise, express, understand and manage emotions are important skills for children to learn. Opening up the conversation and encouraging them to notice a wide range of feelings in themselves will also help them when it comes to understanding the feelings of others.

You can also attach a magnet to the back of your softie so it can be stuck to the fridge. I have found the kitchen to be a safe and non-threatening environment for difficult discussions with kids.

How to Make a Feelings Softie

You will need:

Helping Children Manage Big Emotions Resources: Simple Sew Feelings Softie

  • 15cm X 15cm square of blue felt
  • 15cm X 15cm square of green felt
  • Scraps of black felt for facial features
  • Needle
  • Thread
  • Pins
  • Polyester fiberfill
  • Two wiggly eyes
  • Magnet (optional)
  • Hot glue gun or strong craft glue

How to Make Your Softie

Helping Children Manage Big Emotions Resources: Simple Sew Feelings Softie

1. Place the green square of felt onto the blue square and pin them together. Draw a circle approximately 10cm in diameter close to the bottom of the square as shown above. I made my circle by drawing around a bowl that was about the size I wanted.

Helping Children Manage Big Emotions Resources: Simple Sew Feelings Softie

2. Sew around the circle leaving a 5cm opening for stuffing.

Helping Children Manage Big Emotions Resources: Simple Sew Feelings Softie

3. Push in small amounts of polyester fibrefill until it feels right. Sew the opening closed. I’ve drawn on lines at the top of the circle as a cutting guide for my softie’s hair.

Helping Children Manage Big Emotions Resources: Simple Sew Feelings Softie

4. Cut fringe at the top and cut off the rest of the felt from around the circle. Glue on wiggly eyes. Cut two little eyebrows from black felt for added expression and glue into place.

Helping Children Manage Big Emotions Resources: Simple Sew Feelings Softie

5. Cut out a mouth from black felt. Remember, this mouth isn’t glued on. Just press it down firmly and it will stick to the felt. When you want it can be a happy face as above…or a sad face as below:

Helping Children Manage Big Emotions Resources: Simple Sew Feelings Softie

You can also cut some different shaped mouths to increase the range of expressions, like this worried face:

Helping Children Manage Big Emotions Resources: Simple Sew Feelings Softie

You could also cut a round circle mouth for a surprised or excited face.

6. If you want your softie to stick to the fridge, glue the magnet to the back

7. Choosing a name for your softie is vital! It’s amazing how quickly a name brings an object to life in the imaginations of children…as mentioned, I’ve called mine Lester!

For more simple sew softie ideas, check out Trixi’s blog.

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About Trixi: Trixi Symonds is author of the children’s sewing book, Sew Together Grow Together.  She is the founder of Sew a Softie a worldwide initiative to encourage parents to sew with their children. She blogs at Coloured Buttons. You can find  her on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest

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How to Boost Your Child’s Emotional Intelligence

Living with young children, we all know how BIG their emotions can be.

 As adults we get it but as parents we don’t always like it. 
Thinking back to the first year at school for one of my own, when talking to her classroom teacher we could have been describing two different children such were the extremes in my daughter’s behaviour. At school, she was the model student, polite, co-operative and thoughtful of others. At home, she was teary, loud and even violent. She headbutted me one bedtime. She was only 5. 

It was overwhelming, distressing and very isolating. For her and for the rest of our family.

Fortunately, this isn’t our story now.

While we can’t prevent our children from feeling this way (and nor should we), we all want to raise our children to be emotionally intelligent adults. As parents, this begins by helping our children to identify, understand and begin to self-regulate the full range of human emotions.

How To Boost Your Child's Emotional Intelligence: Managing Big Emotions

What is Emotional Intelligence?
Emotional intelligence is generally regarded as our ability to identify, express and control emotions. Working as a classroom teacher (and as a parent of three of my own), I know that some children are better able to adapt to and cope with new or different situations while others need to be supported and taught more intentionally how to manage their feelings.

When we think about our days, we understand they are filled with different emotions…

Happy because the sky is clear and cornflower blue when you wake up.

Annoyed because someone used the last of the milk before you got your coffee.

Sad because a workmate is leaving for another job in a different city.

But what of our children? They are still learning to even recognise their feelings. So it’s important for parents and teachers alike to help children identify, understand and communicate their feelings. Not only is this important for their own emotional development but it can also smooth the way socially, especially when a child is facing a big transition, like starting school.

So how do we help?

How to Boost Your Child’s Emotional Intelligence

1. Label the Emotions
To understand anything, you first need to learn the correct language to identify and articulate your understanding appropriately. Books are a great tool to help guide a child to understanding a range of different emotions, and they help children to learn words to describe them too.

What emotions might feel like – hot, shaky, sweaty, warm, prickly

What emotions might sound like – loud, quiet, crackly

What emotions might look like – pale, red, tight, flushed

One of my absolute favourite picture books for helping children identify their emotions is The Color Monster by Anna Llenas. There are others I recommend (you can see the full list here) but The Color Monster is a beautifully illustrated book to explore together with your child. 
It’s about a very relatable monster whose emotions get all mixed up and he doesn’t understand why until he gets some help from a friend to sort them out. You can easily use the visuals in this book to connect with your child and invite further discussion about emotions. Colours can act as powerful cues (there’s a reason the movie Inside Out was so popular).

How To Boost Your Child's Emotional Intelligence: Managing Big Emotions

Then later, if they are feeling angry or sad, talk about how they are feeling, what made them feel that way and relate their experience back to the book by asking what colour they are at that moment.

2. Own the Emotions
We all like to feel like we belong somewhere. Children can sometimes feel very confused and alone with their emotions. As adults, we can help them understand that a range of emotions is perfectly normal aby simply talking aloud about how we are feeling at different times.

I’m so angry at myself right now. I forgot to pick up the cake I ordered for the party tomorrow. Now I’m going to have to make a special trip to collect it but I know I shouldn’t drive when I’m feeling like this so I might go for a walk outside first before I leave to calm down.

It can feel strange and forced but it is so valuable for our children to hear that how we feel is exactly how they feel sometimes, and if you include what you do to change how you are feeling, then they have some tools to try too. 

I’m an advocate of physical activity so instead of hitting a pillow, try bouncing a ball as hard as they can, running to touch different objects in the back yard or jumping on the trampoline as high as they can. Some children will prefer quiet instead – like a safe place to go and read or draw.

Give your child the space and direction they need to manage their big emotions, and then try to talk to them later (when they are calmer) about what happened.

3. Show Them You Care
Showing your childrem that you care about them and what is happening in their world is so important.

Sometimes they just need to know you are listening to them, that you empathize with them even if you can’t fix it for them or agree with them. Sometimes they might just need help navigating the complex reality of some friendships.

Put down your device, sit down to dinner regularly and have a conversation with them remembering that children up to ten years of age are very literal. If you tell a child you miss them when they go to school, they might then want to stay with you because they don’t want you to feel sad.

Children need to know that you are their biggest fan and love them but that you might not always like what they are doing or saying. The two things must be kept separate and you have to make this distinction clear to your child whilst making them feel safe enough to feel and express all of their emotions.

I love you but I don’t like it when you yell at your sister that way.

You look upset. Do you want to tell me what’s happening?

Being able to let it all out whether it’s at 3, lying on the floor kicking and screaming, or slamming doors in their wake at 14, most of us feel better when these emotions are released. Showing your child they can express their emotions in a variety of ways that don’t hurt or harm is important. Expressing emotions through art or writing can be very self-empowering too.

Going back to my own school starter, she was overwhelmed being at school all day but would contain these emotions until she got safely home and then it would spill out everywhere.

Sound familiar?

Throw in some homework and by the end of term, most nights were a mess. To help her, we decided, with the support of her teacher, to give her some days off school here and there and, unlike a sick day, we would spend the day doing things together she enjoyed.

4. Build a Toolbox
Emotions can run high and low. As I explain to my children, as adults we don’t feel happy all the time but we don’t feel sad all the time either. Every day can be a mix of emotions. Teaching our children how to recognise and express their emotions without impacting others is key. As they grow, we can then teach them how to best manage their emotions as well.

We need to equip our children with some tools to help them manage their emotions, while understanding that emotions are simply our bodies way of sending us messages, a signal to something in their lives that needs to be handled differently.

Imagine this…
Visiting Santa, you feel your child’s hand tighten in yours as you get to the front of the line. They’re quiet, eyes darting. You ask if they feel okay and they reply that their stomach feels tight and shaky. Santa looks scary and the mall is too loud.
Do you insist that Santa is friendly and then plonk your child down on his knee ready for a photo before darting out of the shot?
Or do you tell your child that it’s okay to feel that way and ask them what they would like to do? Leave and forget the whole thing or offer to be in the photo with them?

When children are younger they may need your support to see past the immediate problem but as they get older, we want them to have developed some resilience and emotional intelligence to solve their own problems, with us playing more of a backup role.

If we can help our children to do that, to develop a high level of emotional intelligence, we will hopefully be making the world they live in as adults a kinder, more compassionate place to live.

How To Boost Your Child's Emotional Intelligence: Managing Big Emotions
About Nichole: Nichole is an Early Childhood teacher and parent of three. She shares playful ideas for learning from her classroom and home on her blog, You Clever Monkey. Nichole can also be found on Instagram and Facebook sharing her latest printable or play idea.

Check out Nichole’s fabulous blog and resources. We LOVE her printable I Spy Word Family Mats.You Clever Monkey for Childhood 101 (1)

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Don’t Wait Until They Leave Home: Staying Connected with Your Grown Child Starts Now

My son has lived away from home for a number of years as he studied for his degree. Soon, he will further his study in a different country. Our life as a family is changing, maturing.  Much as our relationship must change and mature. How have I kept, and how do I keep, connected with this delightful, caring, and talented young man? Well in truth, it all started many years ago.

Don't Wait Until They Leave Home! Why Staying Connected With Grown Up Kids Starts Now

Develop a Respectful Relationship: It’s Never Too Late
I was fortunate to attend a parenting course when my son was still a baby.  That course (Parent Effectiveness Training, or PET) provided me with life-long communication skills that I put into practice as soon as I learnt them and I’ve continued to use these same skills throughout his life. Together we built a strong and warm relationship, based on the foundations of trust and respect, care and concern.  Now, when we talk, text or message, we know we have a base of love and regard from which to share our thoughts.

Through the graduates of my own PET classes, I’ve discovered that it is never too late to learn how to communicate – even, perhaps, to resurrect a relationship that may be foundering. For some years I ran PET groups for grandparents, many of who were parenting their grandchildren. They began using the same skills with their adult children, as well as their grandchildren. Many were delighted to find that, by listening and talking differently to their adult children, their relationships improved – that it was not too late to reconnect.

Listening to Hear
Throughout my son’s childhood, I trusted in the power of Active Listening, of deeply hearing, my son’s experience. I tried not to dismiss his hurt, or laugh at his fears. By listening, I supported him to find his own solutions to his own problems, to make his own decisions about his life. By enabling his ability to make decisions in childhood, I hoped I would equip him to make decisions (based on his own best judgement) as an adult.

I know that as my son moves through life he will face (and has faced) adversity. I cannot smooth his way, or control events to make him happy.  I can only listen, and support him to help develop his character and resilience.

A Relationship Built on Trust
I trust my son.  Unconditionally. I have always believed in his innocence, good intentions and competence.  Even when annoyed with him, I knew that his behaviour was simply meeting a need.

By building a relationship based on trust, I can now watch him soar.  I know he will reach out when he needs reassurance or support, before he stretches his wings once again.

I hope he feels safe to confide in me, as he knows I won’t blame him, or put him down, or question his motive.

My son and I are in this relationship together.  I trust that he cares enough about me (as he knows I care about him), to maintain and strengthen our relationship.

Common interests
During my son’s lifetime we developed some common interests. We enjoy reading books of various genres and watching films. We like to talk about politics and current affairs (sometimes in heated agreement!)

These interests are now a lifeline to initiating discussions, and are particularly useful when we may not have spoken for some time. A lighter topic can lead to those deeply satisfying heart to hearts – the cement in a relationship.

When our interests diverge (his love for his chosen form of music, for example), then I try (desperately) to understand his passion, to accept our differences.

I learn so much from my son when I am open to his experience and knowledge.

Technology, Communication and Connection
This topic was worthy of a blog of its own! For me, electronic forms of communicating are both a blessing and a curse.

A blessing is the mobile phone.  Now we have a screen so that we can see each other (if we choose) and electronic platforms for face-to-face communication over long distances.  But these calls are time-consuming.  Who has time these days to just sit and talk?

Instead, more often than not, my son and I have been seduced into the ease of texting, the instant connection of Facebook messaging.  So much quicker, fitting into our busy, time-poor lives. But the effortlessness of texting comes at a cost.  Our words are short and to the point.  The subtleties of verbal and non-verbal communication are lost in the perfunctory words scrolling across the screen.

On the one hand, I am grateful for the peace of mind that instant connection affords me.  On the other, I miss the closeness that develops when we talk in person.

Technological communication saves time.  But I think time is essential for maintaining quality relationships. In days gone by, letters took time to write.  Phone calls took time to make. Time becomes an investment in relationship.

What I’d Do Differently Now
If I had my time over, I’d prioritise time with my son over work, or cleaning the house, or watching TV. I’d ask him if we could make a regular time to phone or video call, from the minute he left home.  I’d discuss why I thought this was important to me, to us, to our relationship.

My son, the man, will always be my child. He is a person who I admire, respect and love deeply. Keeping connected will take work, time and commitment from both of us.

Listening, trusting, and communicating respectfully will hold the key to our enduring relationship.

For more on this topic from Larissa, check out her post – When Your Child Leaves Home: Some Pitfalls and Positives of Electronic Communication.About Larissa: Larissa Dann is a parent, a daughter and a partner. She has been a science communicator, a professional telephone counsellor, and manager of a community organisation. Her passion is parent education, and now, writing. She enjoys reflecting on, and writing about, parenting, living with elderly parents,and what her children (and her dogs), teach her about life. You can join her Parent Skills Facebook page here, and read more of her work on her Parent Skills website.

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