Make an Emotions Jar to Teach Kids About Their Feelings

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I previously posted that I had watched Disney’s Inside Out and found the movie was an excellent way to teach children about managing their emotions.  Ever since I saw the movie, social-emotional learning with children has been a hot topic in my household and amongst friends.  I hear stories about bullying, low self-esteem, sibling rivalry…it goes on and on.  Yes these are normal childhood challenges, but I think it is so important that we stay in touch with our children. Not only can we teach them about managing their emotions, but by showing our kids that we are their to support them we can help nurture their ability to have resilience.  Resilience can be such a powerful skill that can help our kids navigate challenges and succeed in the future.

I am often finding myself talking to my kids about their feelings and emotions, especially as I am treading water in the preteen and early teen years.  So I made an emotions jar for the kids to vent out, share, and celebrate their feelings.

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The idea was simple.  I decorated a mason jar and labeled it “My Feelings Jar” with a post-it and washi tape.  What is the jar for?  I figured in a day or a week, or even during a trying period of time for my child or the family, my kids can write how they are feeling and drop it in the jar.

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Just like the movie, associated colors with the emotions of joy, disgust, anger, fear, and sadness.  This is also an opportunity for you and your kids to come up with colors that represent other emotions.

How about…

  • embarrassment
  • shame
  • elation
  • nervousness
  • enthusiasm

…the list can go on and on.  This can help your kids learn about the array of emotions that one person can feel (and it’s completely normal!).

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Making this came at the perfect time as it’s the beginning of summer.  This means my kids are spending an unnatural amount of time with each other.  If you are in the same boat, you know that this can lead to arguments, irritation, celebration, and jubilation all at once.  In the middle of a spat I showed the kids the jar and this is what I did:

  1. Write. I had every one take the appropriate color post-it and write a feeling/memory of how they were feeling.
  2. Share. Then each child had to share what they wrote and explain their feelings.
  3. Discuss.  We talked about what could have been done to resolve the negative feelings (if any) from everyone (not just the person being blamed and the one feeling the negative emotion).
  4. Drop in the Jar.  We put it in the jar…they considered it RESOLVED.
  5. End With A Feeling of Joy.  I ended with having the kids write memories they’ve had so far that day on the yellow papers (Joy).  I encouraged to write as many individual yellow joy memories as they wanted to and could.  It turned out they were able to write a lot, their feelings of sadness/anger were tempered down, and a happy day resumed.

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Yes, tears were shed because no one was playing with someone in the fort.

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While the drama was ensuing about the fort, my other child was sharing how she is dealing with recent dental work (which is causing her pain).

It is a great way for kids to not only leverage their own emotions, but hear out the emotions of others in a concrete way.

Some other suggested ways to use an emotion jar:

  • Make one jar per child.
  • Use the jar for daily life or introduce the jar for a challenging time in the child’s life.  This can include moving, divorce, a death in the family, a sickness in the family, and so forth.
  • Gauge the colors that are being placed in the jar.  If you notice the colors for negative emotions are starting to fill up the jar, take the opportunity to communicate with your child.  Also do things to encourage your child to fill up the jar with colors and memories that represent happy emotions to “find balance”.
  • Ask the child if they want their jar private between them and a parent or public for the whole family to discuss.  Some children make more effectively vent their emotions when they know it isn’t for public consumption.
  • Always make a “touch base” point with the jar.  Check the contents and memories of the jar with the child at the end of the day, at the end of an incident, end of the week, etc.  It entirely depends on the situation you are using it for.
  • If a child has been going through a particularly rough patch in their lives, congratulate and celebrate with the child if they are successfully filling their jars with positive memories/perceptions to counteract the negative memories.  The child will learn that the negative emotions are normal to feel. However, they can’t let the negative “consume their jar” or themselves.
  • Want to make an emotions jar with younger children that can’t write?  Use colored beads, pom poms, etc and have children talk about why they chose a certain bead color, etc.DSC_0196b

Hope this is a fun activity for you and your child to get a handle on emotions!  Would love to hear if you try this at home!

~Lani

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