Compassionate Listening and Guidance
The Kimochis Feelings are a helpful vehicle for listening and guiding an upset child. Listen to your child’s experiences and feelings and help them work through conflicts. It can be challenging to regulate your own feelings when your child is upset! It’s hard to watch your child have emotional hurts! It can be helpful to remember that you actually want your child to have a certain amount of upset feelings when they are young, so they can practice handling real-life upsets in ways that are positive, resilient, and effective.
When your child comes to you and tells you that something has happened, you can: slow things down; encourage everyone to take a deep breath; and work to make upset feelings more manageable. Keep in mind that, sometimes, all a child needs is a listening ear, validation of their feelings, and help coming up with a plan on their own.
Below are eight simple listening steps—you might naturally do some of these already! Do not feel as though you have to rigidly follow each step in order. It’s most important to remember the basics—listen calmly, let your child do most of the talking, and guide your child to solve their own problems (with your help if needed).
Steps for Listening and Guiding An Upset Child
Say what you see (rather than asking “Wh” questions, such as “What happened?”)
“I see two sisters who are both having big feelings. I hear Fighting Voices and see Fighting Faces.”
Use compassionate listening noises and facial expressions as a first response to your child’s upset story. This will open up the lines of communication and lead to more information and closeness. For example, “Ohhhhh … Shoot … Ouch.”
We suggest that you keep a bowl or basket of the Kimochis Feelings in a high-traffic place in your home. Suggest that everyone go to the Kimochis Bowl of Feelings. Ask your child to pick a Feeling “to show me what you feel inside.” If you are working through conflict between two children, you can say, “I’d like you two to pick Kimochis Feelings to name what you are feeling.” It’s fine for children to simply show the Feeling they picked. Speaking is not always easy or best when emotions are heated.
Use active listening, empathy, and curiosity. “It makes sense to me that you feel mad. Is there more you want to tell me about that feeling?”
Encourage problem-solving. “Can you think of something that you can say and do to make the situation better? How do you think that will work out for you?” (If child has good idea, go to Step 7.)
Offer suggestions only if needed. “Do you want to hear what some kids might say and do?” Give them the words and actions.
Practice the plan in a role-play or show. “Let’s practice.” Have your child put you in the upsetting situation they were just in, so you can model helpful words and actions. Reverse roles so your child can imitate your communication model. You can also use the Kimochis characters for these role-plays.
Show confidence and admiration for effort and resiliency. “I feel proud of you. I admire how you are working on using your Talking Voice when your brother does something that makes you feel angry.”
Steps for Guiding Siblings or Friends through Upset Feelings
Invite both children to join you at the Kimochis Bowl of Feelings. Limit the number of feeling pillows in the bowl to four or five for young children and non-readers. Remember you can also invite children to the bowl for happy reasons to encourage celebrating feelings!
Read the word aloud as you touch each Feeling in the bowl. “Let’s see, we have Happy, Proud, Sad, Sorry, and Frustrated.”
Explain that nobody will have to talk, but that this is a time to learn how to say and do the right thing when we feel upset or have “hard to have” feelings.
Ask each child to choose a Feeling(s) from the bowl as a response to this kind of prompt: “Bradley, pull out the Feelings you were having when you and Coby were playing LEGOs.”
- Acknowledge your child’s feelings. “So you were feeling sad and frustrated. Did I get that right?”
- Invite this child to toss those Feelings back into the bowl.
- Repeat the above with the second child.
- Use active listening, empathy, and curiosity with both children.
Pull out the Sorry feeling pillow and ask the children to give you a head nod if either child wishes they had done something different when they were feeling [name the upset feeling they shared].
Ask if either child would like to bravely hold the Sorry feeling pillow and tell the other child’s eyes what they wish they had done. For example, “I wish I could have just asked you for a turn rather than grabbing the LEGOs.”
Ask the child who is listening if they feel a little better now that their friend/sibling knows they wish they had handled their feelings better.
Suggest that the child holding the Sorry feeling pillow apologize or say they are sorry and ask their sibling/friend for forgiveness.
Wrap up this session by declaring your pride in how brave and aware each of the children are. Remind them that really kind kids can forget and do unkind things. Remind them that friends and siblings can have “hard to have” feelings, and when we “go to the bowl” or simply apologize and try to make things better, everyone feels better and closer.