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Kimochis Feeling Pillows Guide:
Activities for Mental Health Professionals to Help Children Process and Regulate Big Feelings
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1. HELLO FEELINGS!
Sit with the child at a table or on the floor. Hand the bowl of feelings to the child and ask them to pour out all the feelings. Spend a few minutes together exploring the pillows, looking at the words and facial expressions that go with them. Observe with them how many different feelings there are and how they are all mixed together. Remind the child that a wide variety of feelings are necessary for healing, all feelings are acceptable, and many more fun activities will help them learn about their feelings and how to handle them.
2. SHOW OFF
Explain that we can create positive feelings by using our bodies. For example, when we smile, we send our body positive signals that fuel positive feelings like happy and hopeful. Likewise, when we have upset feelings, we can use our body to move through these feelings toward contentment. When things don’t go our way, we can shrug our shoulders and remind ourselves, “Things might work out better next time.” Have the child pick out a feeling that makes them feel upset. You or the child can then demonstrate how having this feeling looks on the body. Ask, “What can you do with your body to make the feeling smaller?” Give examples if needed: shrug your shoulders, snap your fingers, shake it off, stomp, push against a wall with your arms, legs, or whole body. Practice having different upset feelings and trying different ways to help those feelings feel smaller inside. What works for the child? What doesn’t? Now have the child pick out a feeling they want to have more of, like hopeful, grateful, or friendly. Together, consider how the body can contribute to feeling more of that feeling. For example, take a big, deep breath, clasp your hands together, give yourself a hug, give yourself a pat on the back, smile. Ask the child to practice using some of these tools at home and to report back next week on what they tried and how it worked or didn’t. Keep practicing until the child finds what works for them.
3. WHAT FEELINGS DO YOU KNOW?
Gather together a sheet of paper and coloring/writing tools. Begin by writing the title, “My Feelings Poster” at the top of the page. Have the child choose something to write with and ask them to write down as many feeling words as they know. For children who do not write yet or don’t want to, you can do the writing for them. (Of note is that some people see words in color, so you might ask the child if they see their feelings as being a particular color.) Next, have the child empty the bowl of Kimochis® feeling pillows. Then, have them match the words they wrote with the corresponding feeling pillows. Put those feeling pillows in a pile. Next, look at the words on the remaining pillows—the feelings they did not write down. Talk about any they may not understand. Once you’ve explained those feelings, add these words to their poster as well. Ask the child to become a “feelings detective” in between your meetings with them by listening for new, interesting feeling words and bringing them to your next session. Try adding some fun new feeling words to the poster like “perplexed,” “elated,” or “gob-smacked.”
4. FEELING “FINE”
One of the most common questions people ask is: “How are you?” Most often, the reply will be “Fine,” or “Good.” Then, the conversation just moves on. Rather than just moving on, help the children you work with delve deeper into this question by prompting further: “Well, if you weren’t feeling fine, what would you be feeling?” or “Okay, but what else are you feeling?” Pull out the bowl of Kimochis® feeling pillows and let the child choose other feelings they are experiencing. This activity helps kids get more in touch with themselves and with what is going on internally right at the start of your time together.
5. FEELING SAFELY
Ask the child to sort all the Kimochis® feeling pillows into three different piles:
(1) Feelings they are comfortable sharing
(2) Feelings they keep to themselves
(3) Feelings they wish they could share but don’t.
Listen to and observe how they make their decisions when sorting. Start a conversation about trust. Create a list with the child of the qualities they want in someone to share feelings with and to help them with their problems. Who will listen? Who will help? You may need to explain that sometimes people hold their feelings in until they find a person to confide in, a person they trust to listen and help them. Encourage the child to keep looking until they find a few people like that. Hopefully, you’ll be one of them!
On squares of paper, have the child write down or tell you the names of important people in their life: Mom, Dad, siblings, relatives, other adults, friends, pets. Write one name on each piece of paper. Now ask the child to sort these into three different piles too:
(1) People they can share their feelings with
(2) People they don’t or can’t share their feelings with
(3) People they wish they could share their feelings with but don’t.
Combine the feeling pillows and the people cards that align. Ask them if the feeling words on the pillows match up with the people, which may lead to greater differentiation among the pillows and the people. This a good thing, as it illustrates the child’s awareness that they seek out different people for sharing different types of feelings. For example, Uncle Steve may be perfect to talk to when feeling sad, but sister Jenny is the best person to go to when feeling mad, and Mom is best when feeling silly. Tell the child that knowing who they can go to with different kinds of feelings is an important tool. A variation on this activity is to just make and then spread out the name cards. Then pull a variety of feelings one at a time and let the child decide who might be good for helping with that particular feeling. For instance, “I think Grandpa could help me with frustrated, because even when I see him irritated, his voice stays calm.”