Posts

“I Don’t Want to Talk About It!”- 5 Ways To Encourage Emotional Expression

If your child is resistant to communicating when upset, he may try to deny, hide, or avoid talking about his feelings.

It may be because he doesn’t feel safe expressing himself, or he could be afraid that talking about it will make him even more angry or scared than he already is. It is important for children to learn that as hard as it can be to talk about negative emotions, we need to release those feelings or they can resurface as negative behaviors and cause even worse problems. When I teach this to children, they usually give it a shot and see for themselves that they can feel much better afterwards!

5 Ways To Support Talking About Feelings:

Father hugs his daughter

  • Listen: Focus on your child, show empathy, and remove distractions.
  • Validate: Accept their feelings, even if they seem irrational.
  • Normalize: Help them understand that all emotions are normal and healthy.
  • Problem Solve: Encourage your child to come up with ways to cope.
  • Reinforce: Always praise your child for opening up.

Don’t be worried if your child still doesn’t love talking about his feelings, as this is only one way of expressing them. Some children respond better to drawing pictures, role playing with toys, or playing games to communicate their feelings. I am constantly amazed by how creative children can be when it comes to finding their favorite ways. Whatever method they prefer, encourage them to use it so they can get rid of pent-up feelings and get back to having fun!

Your child’s emotional well-being is important not only so they feel their best, but also because it supports their social and intellectual development. The positive effects are contagious to all aspects of your child’s life!

Love What You Read?  Click Here To Subscribe To Our Blogs Via Email!

How to have a just right ‘Engine Level’

As I discussed in my previous blog, a child’s body is typically functioning at one of three ‘Engine Levels’.   Ideally, the goal is to be at the ‘just right’ level, in which your child can accomplish the most and focus on the task at hand. It is important to remember that each child’s ‘Engine Level’ runs differently, and is affected differently.  Therefore, different strategies work differently for each child.

Here are a few strategies which might help your child to reach a just right level:Little boy practicing a yoga position

  • Listen to calming/quiet music
  • Get a drink of cold water/drinking through a straw (e.g. water bottle)
  • Chew gum or a crunchy/chewy snack
  • Take a walk, or get a breath of fresh air
  • Excuse herself to the restroom
  • Exercise/heavy work
  • A big bear hug/joint compressions
  • Yoga breaths (e.g. inhale through nose as long as she can, exhale through mouth like blowing out birthday candles)
  • Rub a small amount of lotion or scented hand sanitizer onto hands (massaging lotion into her skin can be calming, and a nice scent can help to ‘wake-up’ or ‘calm’ her body)

Try the strategies above, and note whether or not they help your child’s mind and body to feel more organized and ready to take on the tasks expected of her.  By incorporating this ‘Engine Level’ lingo into your child’s vocabulary on a daily basis, your child will ideally be able to better understand how her body is feeling, and what she can do when she’s feeling “off” or over/under aroused.  Please reach out to your child’s therapist with any further questions as to how this program can be incorporated into your family’s routine.

Reference: Williams, Mary Sue and Shellenberger, Sherry. (1996,) “How Does Your Engine Run?:  A Leader’s Guide to The Alert Program for Self-Regulation”.  Therapy Works, Inc.

Love What You Read?  Click Here To Subscribe To Our Blogs Via Email! 

What Does my Child’s ‘Engine Level’ Refer to?

Many therapists use the term ‘Engine Level’ throughout your child’s therapy sessions, and possibly within her goals as well.  ‘Engine Level’ refers to your child’s energy level and the way her body is feeling in various environments and in various times throughout the day.  A child’s body is typically functioning at one of three ‘Engine Levels’.   Ideally, the goal is to be at the ‘just right’ level, in which your child can accomplish the most and focus on the task at hand.

Below are some explanations and examples of how your child’s engine level can be moving too fast, too slow, or just rightHappy child jumping

  • An engine level which is too fast means that you might notice rushing; distractibility; decreased body awareness; and decreased organization.  This might look like your child is running around aimlessly, touching her friends and neglecting personal space, or ignoring instructions and what her body should be doing.
  • An engine level which is too slow means that you might notice low energy and decreased endurance, inattention, and that your child is lethargic, sleepy, or unmotivated.  This might look like your child is slouching or falling out of her chair, propping herself up or leaning on a peer, not listening, or not attempting the task at hand.
  • An engine level which is just right means that you might notice that your child is refreshed and energized, that she is alert and ready to focus on the task at hand, and that she is aware of how her body is moving around her environment.  This might look like your child is maintaining an erect posture at the table to complete her homework or engage in mealtime, and she is correctly following directions and using her listening ears.

Try to use this ‘Engine Level’ lingo in a consistent manner so that your child can ideally develop increased body awareness and self-regulation.  Make sure you provide your child with examples of how your own body is feeling, or how you perceive her body to be feeling, so she can best understand what you are referring to (e.g. “It looks like your engine is moving too fast.  Your body keeps falling out of your chair.  Why don’t you stand-up and do 10 jumping jacks, and then try sitting in your chair again.”)  Stay tuned for my next blog on strategies to obtain a just right ‘Engine Level’.

Reference: Williams, Mary Sue and Shellenberger, Sherry. (1996,) “How Does Your Engine Run?”:  A Leader’s Guide to The Alert Program for Self-Regulation.  Therapy Works, Inc.

Love What You Read? Click Here To Subscribe To Our Blogs Via Email!

Teaching Children To Follow Directions

Here are some easy tips to help your child follow directions:

Yes and No Directions Simplify instructions:

  • Use short, simple phrases, with episodes of repetition when necessary.
  • When possible, break down multi-step instructions into distinct component parts. Say “sit down, put shoes on” rather than “Go to the table, sit down, and put your shoes on.”
  • Be specific “please put your socks in the hamper” rather than “clean up your room.”
  • Phrase directions as a statement rather than as a question (i.e. “please put the book on the shelf” rather than “will you put the book on the shelf?”)

 Check for understanding:

  • After hearing instructions, encourage your child to repeat them back to you.

Using pictures and schedules:

  • Implement pictures to provide visual representation and establish routine. For example, use sequential pictures to show the sequencing of washing hands or brushing teeth.  These can be placed on the mirror in the bathroom.
  • Use daily or task specific picture schedules to provide visual representation of language, assist in transitions, and establish routines.

 Multi-step instructions:

  • Apply a “first, then” model (i.e., first work, then play).
  • Pair related instructions together (i.e., Get your shoes, then put your shoes on).  As consistency and accuracy of following related multi-step directions increases, begin to incorporate unrelated directions (i.e., Take off your shoes, then sit at the table).

 Use positive rather than negatives:

  • Phrase directions positively and tell your child what you want him/her to do rather than what you want him/her not to do. For example, say “please walk” rather than “don’t run.” The same specific and descriptive language should be used when praising. For example, instead of saying “You are being helpful, ” it would be better to say exactly what you want/like about his/her behavior, such as “thank you for taking out the garbage without us having to remind you.”

If you would like to receive our blogs in your email: Please sign-up here!