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Tools for helping kids manage emotions, build resilience and stay safe

Posted: 01/06/2020

With many kids in Australia (and around the world) starting to return to school after the lockdown, we thought it was a good time to do a quick roundup of the resources we have available for supporting kids to build their social and emotional literacy.

By helping children develop the skills and knowledge to recognise, interpret and appropriately respond to feelings and thoughts, we are giving them tools they can use in every area of their lives. Having a vocabulary around personal strengths, resilience, body signals and emotions can also support children to stay safe and build respectful relationships with others.

Noticing Strengths

Children thrive when their strengths are valued and their efforts are acknowledged. Often, the best way to tackle a problem is to start by noticing and naming our strengths. By supporting children to focus on what they can do and the skills, abilities and resources they already have, we can help them mobilise these strengths to deal with any challenges that come their way.

Strengths help children learn, grow and become the best they can be. For these reasons many family counsellors, welfare coordinators and support workers encourage parents and carers to notice children’s strengths.

Strengths Cards for Kids: 40 cards featuring a diverse range of colourful animal characters to help kids talk about their own strengths and the strengths of others.

Can-Do Dinosaurs: Ideal for helping children overcome fears, develop confidence, build friendships and make good decisions, by focusing on what they can do, rather than what they can’t.

Feelings and emotions

Wherever you find people, you will also find feelings and emotions. And feelings are important! Learning to recognise and manage our feelings—and respect those of others—is at the heart of building emotional intelligence. How we feel affects not only our relationship to ourselves and others, but also our ability to learn, grow and contribute. In short, our feelings affect our whole life.

Funky Fish Feelings: Each card includes an observer character to help children externalise their feelings. Great for icebreakers, storytelling, family sculpting exercises and therapeutic conversations.

The Bears: A classic, much-loved resource for talking about feelings and body signals. The cards have no words so they are great for use with people who speak a language other than English or have low literacy.

Stones…have feelings too! : Describing feelings is at the heart of emotional literacy and therapeutic work. Each card features a stone on one side, and three words on the reverse to describe the emotion shown.

The Koalas: Includes 20 pocket-sized cards with portraits of quirky koalas. Great for having conversations on the run.

Cars ‘R’ Us: Inspired by Choice Theory and Reality Therapy, Cars ‘R’ Us is an interactive tool for exploring both emotions and the significance of choices in our lives.

Managing worry and staying safe

Learning to recognise, interpret and manage our body signals is an incredibly important skill. Our body communicates its wisdom to us long before our conscious mind can get a word in. That’s why body signals are sometimes called our ‘early warning signs’.  For example, we may not know consciously that we feel unsafe, but our body may be giving us a clear warning sign through a tight tummy, sweaty palms or a beating heart. Body signals are an important key to staying safe and building social and emotional wellbeing.

With practice even very young children can learn to recognise their body signals (and those of others) as strong indicators of emotions. This skill is crucial for developing protective behaviours or simply for navigating everyday life.

Body Signals: 40 bold and colourful cards for helping children tune into their body signals and build a vocabulary to describe them.

Once kids have learned to identify these early warning signals, it can be useful to have a ‘toolkit’ of strategies they can draw on to help sooth worry and calm anxious thoughts. They also need to have a plan of action if they feel unsafe.

Anxiety Solutions for Kids: 50 strategies to help children manage worry and anxiety.

Tell a Trusted Adult: A resource for exploring safety with children. Includes 9 activity cards and a booklet full of suggestions for early learning educators, primary teachers, parents and anyone who supports children and families. Also comes in a kit with 10 lesson plans and 6 posters. (Due for release in September 2020).

Respectful Relationships

Making friends comes absolutely naturally to many children. But even young children may find forming friendships a highly complex business, overlaid with social rules and expectations imposed by adults and their peer group.

Young children are highly influenced by the people and environment around them. The early years is when stereotypes relating to gender, race and class are laid down. Children begin to internalise concepts about their own and others’ potential, role and place in life. They tune into power dynamics and mirror the language, behaviours and attitudes of the significant adults around them.

With the guidance of caring adults, children can begin developing empathy for others and an understanding of what respectful and inclusive behaviour looks like.

Mates Traits: Cards and bonus colouring book for building friendships and preventing bullying.

Rainbow Fox: An early years picture book (and teaching notes) for challenging gender stereotypes and promoting respectful relationships.

The Wrong Stone: A picture book that celebrates diversity and inclusion.

Play together, learn together: A set of fun, simple activities for parents to do with toddlers and babies.

Tactile resources

When conversations turn to tricky subjects, our hands are often clear indicators of discomfort.

Whether it is hands thrust deep into pockets in defiance, or nervously rearranging hair, or biting fingernails, or any other kind of flicking, tapping, picking or squeezing we may be doing, our hands speak volumes.

Having something to occupy our hands seems to help us externalise or transfer some of the intensity of our emotional state to outside. This is one of the understandings that sits behind the use of tactile resources in therapeutic work.

We have a range of tactile resources for children. These can be used by themselves or alongside the relevant card set/book.

The Bears cube

The Bears tactile characters

Pocket of Stones

Koala Company Therapy Ball

Stickers

Value packs and bundles

We also have several value packs of resources.

If you would like to learn more about using our tools to talk to children about social and emotional literacy, our Tools for Building Social & Emotional Literacy in the Early Years workshop is now available as 4 videoconferenced sessions of 1.5 hrs each @ $250 per session. For more information, please contact learning@innovativeresources.org

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