My tip for this week is developing a feelings vocabulary with your child. We talked last week about the important of role playing for positive outcomes. This week, I wanted to stress the importance of teaching your child to communicate their feelings.
Studies have shown that gifted children actually feel more deeply and intensely than their age-level peers. They are also more intuitive to the events and feelings around them. And they hear EVERYTHING. My mother used to call them "sonar ears" and it is too true. Gifted kids are seeing, hearing, feeling and drawing conclusions all the time. I amazed on September 11th that the students I have who were not alive for these events have a deep-seated need to discuss and decompress regarding this historic date.
They have these profound emotions coursing through them all the time, and yet they cannot always find a way to convey it to those around them. Certainly not their peers! More often than not they cannot communicate it to the adults in their lives either.
I encourage you to find ways to express emotions with your child. I have a few suggestions that have proven helpful with gifted children in the past. These are the beginning steps to teaching your child how to own their feelings and to ultimately control them so they are not controlled by their feelings. This in turn will help them become successful and communicative adults in the future!
- Feelings faces are particularly beneficial to small children. As a family, use large white paper plates to make feelings faces. Take turns drawing sad, happy, angry, confused, frustrated, etc. expressions onto the paper plates. Make it fun by adding yarn hair and other features. As you make the faces, discuss times when you may have felt this way, and allow your child to share as well. When your child is having trouble, let them show you the paper plate as a way to communicate their feelings. If you have a shy child, establish a procedure for leaving the faces on their door, or on your pillow, so that you can begin to understand the depth and breadth of how your child is feeling in different situations.
- Emotions as colors is another strategy I have used for many years. With your child, assign a color to every emotion. Sadness could be blue, happiness yellow, alive green, and so and so forth. Keep a small notebook of white paper somewhere handy, and when your child is demonstrating emotional paper, help them to "vent" it in color. You can use paint, crayons, colored pencils (whatever your personal messiness threshold can handle!). As your child begins to show more emotions, you can introduce color combinations or degrees of a color. This allows your child to begin to identify their emotions, to own them, and to share them.
- Feelings journals or dialog journals are one final strategy I will leave you with. Take a notebook and begin a dialog journal back and forth with your child. Begin by writing your child a letter, telling them you would like to try to find a new way to "talk" with them. Include whatever you would like to, but keep it short at first. Let your child know how they can return it to you (tucking it under your pillow, putting it on your desk), and then leave it on their pillow or in another place you choose. Your child can respond as they need. You can begin to dialog back and forth with your child, sharing your thoughts, feelings, and more. My mother and I did this through letters, and I remember to this day how beneficial it was-especially in the adolescent years.