Over the past few months, I have had the opportunity to train professionals across Tennessee, who work with children and families, to use Kimochis®. Kimochis® is a social, emotional learning tool that helps children and families communicate and talk about their feelings and behaviors.
So, I am sitting in a training room with 15 adults. We are all holding a feeling pillow – a small, brightly colored, round plush with a face on one side and a feeling word on the other. Some of us are holding a feeling our bodies like to have and others are holding a feeling our bodies do not like to have. We each share a story about the feeling we are holding. Some stories are funny and others are sad. I chose to share one story, in particular, that caught my heart.
The story begins with a young child, about 5 years old. After introducing Kimochis® to her, she came across the feeling “left out.” The little girl has long brown hair with big bouncy curls. She is wearing a purple dress that has ruffles around the bottom. Her little shoes are bright pink with butterflies on them. She picks up this feeling pillow and takes a big, deep breath. Then, she reads the feeling word out loud. “Left Out.” I gaze into her sweet innocent face wondering what she is thinking. I wonder what she is feeling. She looks up at me and says with an intense concerned look on her face, “what a sad feeling…” You see, I believe that this is the first time she has ever comprehended the feeling “left out.” I also believe that she has felt this very hard feeling before.
We typically choose to leave out the feelings our bodies do not like to have when we teach our children about emotions. We say things like, “Don’t cry, you’re fine.” We want to make things better, because who wants their child to feel disappointed or scared? We, oftentimes, try to change how they feel or we shut down our children’s feelings instead of embracing, validating, and teaching our children how to feel them and how to recognize them in others. Children learn about these hard to have feelings by experiencing them. And, when that happens, they don’t know what to do with the feeling. This is where we see those challenging behaviors. A child feels jealous, so they grab a friend’s toy or they kick someone. As adults, we respond by attempting to address the behavior. Often we fail at changing the behavior because we never address the feeling. Feelings fuel behaviors. Every behavior begins with a feeling. With this knowledge, we have the opportunity to build a community of children who know how they feel and who they are.
Imagine a world where children are taught about feelings from birth. I am talking about much more than the heavy hitters – happy, mad, and sad. Imagine young children using their bodies and words to say, “Ouch.” Stepping back, putting their hand over their heart, and making eye contact. “I felt hurt and left out when you said you don’t like me.” Children would know, their entire life, how to own their emotions and give others opportunities to apologize and redo hurtful moments. They would know how to apologize and redo hurtful moments.
How different could our world look if our children grew up knowing and owning who they are? How different could our world be if our children understood others and how to communicate emotions and regulate behaviors?
That is a world I would love to see.
Brittney Jackson is the Lead Family Contact with Early Connections Network at Tennessee Voices for Children. She is a Certified Family Support Specialist with the state of Tennessee and a Certified Parent Support Provider with the National Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health. Brittney is a Certified Kimochis® Trainer, one of only two in Tennessee. She came to Tennessee Voices for Children as a parent looking for resources when her family was struggling with their young child’s behaviors. She gained knowledge and expertise to work with children and families. She loves sharing her experiences, guiding, and supporting families on their journeys to finding resources for their children’s challenging behaviors. In her spare time, she loves going on adventures and playing games with her husband and two boys.