As we plough through these testing times there is one thing we should be grateful for and that is – family. Spending more time with our children and spouses and deepening family bonds is always on our list or kept aside for vacations. However, presently we are given a rare opportunity to spend quality time with our family and make the conversations meaningful and compassionate building relationships for life.
Following are some ideas for activities with children to discover, develop and deepen their empathy and emotional intelligence. The importance being that these skills help them regulate their own feelings and understand others better leading to stronger healthier happier relationships.
Skill 1: Knowing and understanding your feelings
1. Use Baby Albums: Show your children their baby pictures and ask them to identify the different emotions. They will love to see their own pictures and read their various types of expressions!
2. Building a feeling vocabulary: They may know what it feels like but they need a name! Make cards or lists with various emotions written on them like agreeable, angry, anxious, brave, calm, capable, caring, cheerful, comfortable, confident, confused, content, curious, depressed, disgusted, distracted, ecstatic, embarrassed, enjoying, enraged, excited, fantastic, fearful, friendly, frustrated, generous, gentle, gloomy, guilty, happy, hurt, ignored, impatient, insecure, interested, jealous, joyful, lonely, lost, loving, overwhelmed, panicked, peaceful, proud, relaxed, relieved, sad, safe, satisfied, scared, sensitive, serious, shy, stressed, tense, thrilled, troubled, uncomfortable, worried.
3. Share your day: At dinner, eat together with no digital devices on the table and share your day! You can pick the emotions given on top or smiley pictures for younger ones and put them in a basket. Let your kids pick the kind of day they had and share their feelings!
Scroll down to know more about the other skills you can hone in your kids this season.
Skill 2: Being able to read another’s feelings
1. Watch Silent Movies: Turn off the television sound and based on body language, try guessing together how the actors feel!
2. Feelings By Voice: Find some examples of voice or video recordings where a person says one thing and means another. It tunes children to understand the ‘tone’ of voice. You could try some examples with them by enacting some lines!
3. Bringing Out Emotions: Save newspaper and magazine stories of different emotions for example – courage, determination, charity, misfortune and suffering (age-appropriate). Read and share the story together to widen their world view through emotions.
4. Feeling Charades: Write emotions on cards and make a pile. Pull out a card and without any sound, only by body language you need to guess the emotion!
Skill 3: Listening to other people
1. Two Mouths and One Ear: ‘If we were supposed to talk more than we listen, we would have two mouths and one ear’. Ask your child to draw a picture of a person with (2) mouths and (1) ear. Then discuss with them how it would change our day to day exchanges!
2. Talk Show Host: Take a toy microphone(optional) and one of you can be a ‘guest’ on the TV show and other the ‘host’. The host asks the guest questions about their lives and intently listens. Then he asks to follow up questions and cheers for his guest. Maybe you can go first as a ‘host’ and then exchange roles with your child!
Skill 4: Having Family Values
1. Create a motto that describes your family: First, discuss about your values and beliefs and the kind of family you want to become –
a. What do we stand for?
b. What kind of feeling do we want in our home?
c. How do we hope people describe us?
A family mantra is a short phrase that expresses your core values and guiding beliefs. It also helps children define themselves.
– “Our family steps in to help”
– “We treat others the way we want to be treated.”
– “We respect and share.”
– “We are always kinder than is necessary.”
2. Virtue Scrapbook: Create a scrapbook to help your kid realize their character traits and caring qualities, not their academic achievements. Let them see their own moral character journey!
3. Encourage Self Talk: Verbal taunts can undo the most confident children. So teach them sentences like ‘I know who I am. I am kind, confident and courageous and I can do it’!
Skill 5: Manage your emotions
1. Imagine a calm place: For instance – a beach holiday, their room, their quiet space, a garden or any particular memory or incident. Then they should close their eyes to imagine they are there and breathe deeply. Teach them how to breathe deeply: A wonderful way to teach breathing deeply with fun is to make them imagine that:
When they inhale they should imagine smelling a flower, when they exhale they should imagine blowing out their birthday candles!
2. Do yoga with your child: Since recent times, mindful breathing has come to the forefront and meditation is the answer. Imagine what we began as adults, our children start in their childhood? The best way is to do yoga with them, even for 15 minutes is ok! It will be an activity together and a wonderful way to calm down and bond!
3.Gratitude breathing: With each breath count one thing, person event you are thankful for. The more you thank, the more you will feel calmer and loved. Another idea is to pray for others with each breath and send them wonderful wishes and thoughts!
Make a cosy corner: Put some pillows and books in a quiet cosy corner in any room. You can keep notebooks to write away their anger or sadness, a bubble blower, music, crayons to drawer and comics for a laugh. The idea is to make them feel safe and loved.
All activities are to be performed with a healthy dose of fun and laughter and some may even end up as rituals! Whatever the case maybe they surely will serve as great memories and spark meaningful conversations!