By TMoM Team Member Anna Keller

My newly 5-year-old daughter, Maggie, has been navigating some big feelings recently. I’ve noticed that she tends to easily swing from one extreme to the other: One minute it’s “the best day ever,” and the next “I don’t like today much at ALL.” It can be really hard for me to know how to deal with those situations, as I try to strike the balance between making sure she feels safe in expressing any feeling and knows that all feelings are okay and valid, but also helping her regulate those feelings as a life skill.

The other day, we were in the car and Maggie was experiencing one of those mood swings, and I asked her if she wanted to hear something that helped me when it came to thinking about feelings. She was game, so I shared this with her (which is a more kid-friendly, slightly pared-down version of something that has genuinely helped me when it comes to managing my own feelings):

Let’s think about visitors who come to our house. Some of them come over for a short while, like maybe just for dinner or something. Other visitors, like our family and friends who don’t live in Winston-Salem, will come and stay overnight or even longer. But eventually, all visitors leave. And then, at some point, new ones arrive.

Okay, so let’s imagine that your body is a house, and your feelings are the visitors.

A feeling will come into your body (your house!), and it might stay for just a little while, or maybe longer. While that feeling is with you, it’s not your job to try to change it or fix it or make it leave sooner than it wants to. Your job is to sit with it and to be with it while it’s there.

At some point, it will leave. And a new feeling will arrive. Be with that feeling, too, and know that it will also move on.

Our feelings are important, but we are not our feelings.

Maggie listened quietly and intently to this story from the backseat, and she seemed to like it. The next day we were in the car again and she suddenly exclaimed, “Mama! I just had a feeling visit and then it left! I’m waiting for a new one now.”

It was so neat watching that click with her, and I hope it can be a helpful visual tool for her in the years to come. (It has been for me!)

Click HERE for more great tips on helping your child manage emotions, broken down by age!

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