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Healthy Expression

When we experience “big emotions” like rage, loneliness, hopelessness, sadness, or fear, how can we express them without harming others or ourselves? This is an issue that not only young children face, but adolescents, young adults, adults, and seniors! The earlier we practice healthy expression, the better we can regulate our emotions, paving the way for resilience toward whatever the future holds. If, instead, we train ourselves to express emotions unhealthily, such as through violence, denial, minimization, escapism, or blame, the harder it is to unlearn these defense mechanisms. On Friday, we shared our ideas for what we do when we are experiencing uncomfortable emotions. Wow, the kinders, first, and second graders had SO MUCH to share, Sara thinks they are expression experts.

Chadrick opened the conversation by saying that if you are very angry, you should take three deep breaths and then react. The breaths can help calm you down and give you time to think of a good reaction.

James shared that if he is lonely, he goes to the library and makes origami animals. Doing a hobby that is enjoyable, like origami, may boost his self-esteem. Plus, he said that he can play with the origami animals like they are his little friends. This is an optimistic and self-guided activity that can serve him for his whole life.

Ananya sometimes can’t find someone to play with at recess. Does she sulk or blame people for ignoring her? Nope. She keeps walking around and asking if she can play with different people until someone says Yes. It’s so hopeful!

Abigaile can cheer herself up by focusing on happy things in the future that she can look forward to.

Ryan likes to meditate. “Calming thoughts. Kind of like yoga.”

When Harsha suggested that you should never have emotions like anger because they won’t improve past mistakes, James reflected, “Even if you can’t change the past, you can change the future.” Sara is uncomfortable with the idea of forcing yourself to “not have” emotions, as her research into child development shows that strong emotions are an unavoidable part of human experience.

Ananya took the conversation in a different direction when she reflected on what you can do when someone else is experiencing uncomfortable emotions. “If someone gets hurt on accident, I just say I’m sorry and give them a hug.” Showing how much you care about someone and being sympathetic can be a powerful tool for making someone feel okay about being upset.

Anaya brought the dialogue into the present. Just two or three minutes before, she was feeling lonely, and she said, “I talked to Abigaile and just talking to her cheered me up.” Reaching out to someone who cares about you works wonders.

Achyut suggested that you can help yourself by ignoring people who try purposefully to insult you and not to trust them in the future. Sometimes, we get ourselves unnecessarily upset by listening to someone who is saying we’re not good enough.

Nicholas gave great advice. “Whenever I’m angry, I go into my room so I can be by myself. Then I read a book. Then I think about the future of good things and I feel better.” Being in control of your environment can help you be in touch with how you feel and be comforted. Reading, or mildly distracting yourself, can be soothing. And practicing hope and gratefulness work wonders.

Anaya helped Alex think of things to do when you’re angry. “I go to my room and bite a pillow. Or if I’m not in school, I go somewhere I can be alone and scream quietly.” These allow her to express her anger without hurting anyone.

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