When I was a couple of months postpartum, I thought I was having heart problems. I went to the doctor for it, and she looked at me and said I was experiencing anxiety. I had never had anxiety or known that I was! There’s a difference between being nervous and being anxious. I have learned so much since that diagnosis and around age four, started to notice symptoms in my daughter. As a mom, I want to do the best I can for my daughter, and ensure she is able to accomplish everything in life that she wants to. Helping her be mindful of her mental health is just one piece of the journey, but is so important, and something that is often overlooked for children.
Mental health matters for everyone, even the smallest beings.
Sometimes that meltdown is rooted in something deeper than wanting a different snack or not wanting to pick up toys. When I realized that and we started tackling the root cause of those big emotions, we started to see a huge difference in her daily life.
The Feels Wheel
Emotions are okay and so important. It’s okay to be angry, sad, glad, or scared. Identifying those feelings and letting our body and mind feel that emotion is okay and will allow us to more quickly move past it to get to a more content place. In an effort to normalize this, we introduced what we call “the feels wheel” to point out and say when we are feeling sad or mad. We also point out when we are feeling happy and loved. Acknowledging our feelings helps us to wrap our head around why we feel the way we do and know how to tackle it.
We found this one from iMom to be the most fitting for us, but there are a ton of free resources available on the internet! A great supporting resource for acknowledging all of our feelings and their importance is Pixar’s movie Inside Out and The Feels presented by Slumberkins.
We introduced these about a year ago and I absolutely love them. We introduced alpaca to my daughter; the stuffed animal and her story have helped my daughter so much. My daughter never took to a stuffy, but our alpaca has a name and a permanent place in our family, often showing up in family pictures and big events. If you are close to us, you know about her. All of the Slumberkins books and resources are incredible, worth every penny, and an amazing resource. Each lesson/animal comes with a mantra and my daughter has hers memorized, and keeps her alpaca beside her bed to help her through some big, anxious feelings.
Some of our favorites that apply to what we deal with:
Deep Breath Hand Method
Our daughter’s therapist introduced this one to us and it’s our favorite! She can do it on her own or we can do it together. It’s always accessible to her whether she’s at school or somewhere without mom to coach her through it. Sometimes, it only takes one round to calm down and sometimes she has to do it a few times, but it helps a ton to center when emotions are feeling overwhelming. Simply hold out your hand and move your finger up the mountain (breathe in) and down the mountain (breathe out).
Our calming corner is the newest tool in our arsenal and nothing really fancy. My daughter actually asked to develop a calming corner/safe place for her to decompress. We just have a little Dollar Spot basket from Target filled with fidgets, crayons, and a few coloring pages. Taped to the wall behind us is her feelings wheel so that she can identify what she’s feeling and then use the coping mechanism we’ve learned to re-center.