Updated: Jan 10
Just like all of us, kids experience big feelings in response to unwanted changes. Often, those unwanted changes are due to our requests! Helping kids navigate these big feelings means we have smoother transitions and keep our own feelings intact.
Suppose you have an appointment. It’s time to leave and your child still isn’t ready. As you plead with him to put on his shoes, he throws himself on the ground and wails, “No! I play!”
“Sweetie,” you might say, “Calm down. We need to put your shoes on so we can leave. Mommy has an appointment and I don’t want to be late. You don’t want Mommy to be late, do you?”
Have you ever tried talking a child into calming down when their big feelings flare up?
(Have you ever calmed down just because someone told you to?)
Reasoning our children from big feelings to calm feelings is likely a losing battle. An aggravated child doesn’t have the resilience, development, or skills to respond to reasoning by calming down. Instead, you may find their aggravation increases!
Yet in those moments when you just want to get out the door, your own skills and resilience might feel limited!
That’s why I’ve put together the Mission: CONTROL! Toolkit.
Over the next few articles, I’m going to reveal a handful of the tools I use in my own toolkit as I work with children and their families to navigate Big Feelings.
How to Use the Mission: CONTROL! Toolkit
Our brain generally refuses to engage data-dumps (as our lectures so often are) but loves a good sensory experience. The Mission: Control! Toolkit aids you in offering just that. The “tools” in the toolkit represent important skills that your child can practice in order to bring calm to his or her system. It offers a visual that carries a “story,” attracting the attention and focus of the brain to aid in lesson retention and skill acquisition. In a moment of Big Feelings, rather than trying to reason your child’s feelings into something manageable, you can pull out your toolkit and let your child choose which one they’d like to utilize.
In Mission: CONTROL! A Big Feelings Adventure! Joseph doesn’t like how it feels to be out of control. It makes his head feel funny. Between imagining the support of his favorite stuffy, Gretchen, and utilizing his gauntlet, he’s able to find his Will Power and feel in charge of his own body again.
Just like Joseph’s tools, the Mission: CONTROL! Toolkit gives your child agency in deciding how they will work to restore calm to their mind and body. This also distracts your child from their original focus (an unwanted change in plans) to one of play. The toolkit allows your child to engage his or her imagination, moving away from the “rational” brain we tend to reason with to interacting with the sensory part of their brain instead! This is a powerful way to help kids calm their Big Feelings. (Don’t be fooled! It’s a powerful way to calm our brains, too!)
So, in those moments when something feels “too much” for your kiddo, reach for your toolkit and let your child choose just the right tool for managing those Big Feelings. Help your child, if needed, decide which tool will help them feel most in control of themselves.
The First Three Tools
My toolkit has a little megaphone. There are multiple ways this megaphone can support your kiddo.
Kids can call for help when they need the extra support. They can imagine help coming from a peer, caregiver, trusted adult, or even their favorite superhero!
Kids can get their big feelings out by yelling loudly, emptying their insides of the feelings that need out.
Kids can communicate their needs to someone who can listen with understanding and patience.
Feel free to ask your child how they might envision using the megaphone when their feelings seem “too much.” You’ll be surprised by the ways their imagination will come up with creative solutions.
My toolkit also has a fun eraser. There are also multiple ways a child can use the eraser to support restoring calm to their body.
Kids can use the eraser to erase their mistakes and try again. This allows them to focus on an intentional improved effort rather than on the disappointment or shame of the mistake.
Kids can use the eraser to tell themselves a new story about the situation. “I can’t control myself,” might become, “I just need a minute to find my calm.”
Kids can use the eraser to be flexible. Just like an eraser can bend and wiggle, your child can imagine their ability to “bend” and be “flexible” with a change to their plan and their ability to influence their big feelings.
Just like before, let your child suggest ways the eraser might represent a skill to help them manage their Big Feelings. It’s best to determine this before they feel out of control.
Kids can use binoculars to spot big feelings coming from far away. This can help them prepare to defeat the “HypnoZoids” like Joseph! Binoculars let kids see into the future!
Kids can also use the binoculars to focus on something they do like instead of the circumstance causing their frustration. Ask them what they’d like to see instead.
Kids can also use the binoculars for vision. Ask them to use their binoculars to guide you to the bath, the car, or wherever you need to go, pointing out the colors they see or things they notice on the way.
Allow your child to add to the possibilities of the binoculars.
Starting Your Own Mission: CONTROL! Toolkit
In Mission: CONTROL! A Big Feelings Adventure! Joseph was so focused on his disappointment about turning off the TV that he didn’t see the HypnoZoids coming. With his imagination, he was able to use Will Power to solve the problem—but what if he had been able to use his binoculars to see the HypnoZoids coming? Or what if he had focused his binoculars on something else, such as what book he would get to read at bedtime? How would the story have been different? Maybe he could have used his Will Power earlier and avoided the battle or maybe he could have remembered that focusing on something positive feels better.
You have an opportunity to introduce this kind of play and imagination into your child’s arsenal of resources. This builds resilience into their developing systems. With time, they won’t need the actual toolkit to remind them of the resources available to them, they’ll just remember.
Many of the items can be purchased at your local Dollar store. If you're interested, stay tuned! I will be sharing the purchase links I used for the tools in the toolkit I use with my clients. In the meantime, you can use the drawings of tools that my very talented illustrator, Joe Bauman, has created. The Mission: CONTROL! Toolkit doesn’t need to be fancy or pricey. The main thing is that kids understand how what’s inside of it becomes a hearty weapon for overcoming life obstacles!
And as usual, I’m giving you the tools you need to fill your toolkit so you don’t have to come up with the ideas on your own. Over the next few articles, I will continue to share items in my own toolkit that I use when I work with kids and their families.
I’d love to know what tools you put in your toolkit! Comment here or send me a message! I always love adding resources to my own toolkit.
And if you start your own Mission: CONTROL! Toolkit for your home, classroom, or office, I’d love to see pictures! If you send me a picture with your toolkit, with your permission, I’ll share it on my social media and in my newsletter to celebrate our community building resilience in kiddos together.
Save this image to refer back to and stay tuned for the next tools in the series!
I can’t wait to hear how the kids in your care use their tools!