Children dealing with loss and trauma are generally dealing with emotions they have never felt before. Alternatively, they are dealing with an intensity of emotions they have never felt before. Either way, they are ill-equipped to deal with those emotions. Your job is to find tools and methods to help them process through those emotions. A feelings wheel is a valuable tool.
The first step in helping any child deal with difficult emotions (regardless of the source of those emotions) will be to help them recognize and name the emotions they are feeling. Feelings wheels are a simple and effective tool to increase a child’s “emotion vocabulary,” and many options are available online. These tools are all useful for kids who have been through some sort of traumatic life event. They are also useful for giving any child a more robust emotional vocabulary. Teaching kids about emotions prior to trauma and pain is an important preventative measure in dealing with the hurts they will experience as they move through childhood and into adulthood. Much of what we learn about emotions is based on our own life experiences. Kids do not have those experiences, as a general rule, in order to be able to understand the emotions they are feeling.
Feelings wheels can be used in a number of way:
- To help kids experiencing new or unfamiliar emotions to try to find a name for that emotion.
- To prepare kids ahead of time by exploring different types of emotions.
- As a “cheat sheet” for emotion vocabulary building games like “emotions charades” or “mirroring emotions.” (Both of these will be addressed in more detail in later posts).
- To help adults who are not as comfortable with a range of emotions by providing them with a vocabulary for helping kids.