What is a Toolkit for BIG Emotions?
The American Psychological Association (APA) adapted Merriam Webster’s definition of emotions as: Conscious mental reactions (such as anger or fear) subjectively experienced as strong feelings usually directed toward a specific object and typically accompanied by physiological and behavioral changes in the body.
My translation: Emotions impact our mind (thoughts), body (physical sensations and symptoms), and behavior (actions and interactions with others). Emotions tend to provide the lens through which we see ourselves and the world around us.
This impact is magnified for those who have experienced trauma, because the protective way a brain interprets and responds to trauma quite often (and necessarily) prohibits the full processing of the experience. The brain concludes that there’s TOO MUCH to process and so it floods the person with hormones so that the body gets what it needs to fight, run (flight), or freeze, aka survive!
If the experience is left unprocessed — in other words, unresolved or unaccepted — THEN we can get stuck in reliving the sensations of the trauma over and over again. We don’t have to accept that the experience was OK in order to accept that it is over and we are now safe and able to heal and thrive. This most often happens when anything reminds us, even subconsciously, of the traumatic event(s). Reminders can include smells, words, thoughts, an impression, a circumstance, or a physical setting. When we are reminded or triggered, our emotions take over and for the people around us, they can often seem to grow beyond the present circumstance.
Rather than judging the emotional responses as good or bad for ourselves, it is much more helpful to approach them with curiosity and respect. The goal is to learn how to accurately define our emotions and then choose to act in healthy and helpful ways towards ourselves and others.
It is important to gather information from the family first and not directly from the child. Keep conversations with kids responsive to their thoughts and feelings without asking them details about their backgrounds.
Some good questions to consider for yourself:
- What is this feeling I am feeling? (Anger? Sadness? Fear? Frustration? Worry?) Get specific.
- Why do I feel the way I do? (What just happened? Where am I? Have I felt this way before? When?)
- What is my biggest concern right now?
- Can I be specific about what I want or need?
Before kids and youth are able to think through these questions for themselves, they need to be taught about BIG emotions. That is where the Finally Home Toolkit for BIG Emotions comes in.
Why were the kits created?
The Finally Home Toolkit for BIG Emotions is a resource for parents and caregivers to initiate healthy conversations, increase a young person’s emotional vocabulary and awareness, and to empower the young person with practical ways and physical tools to regulate their emotions.
The first version was called a “Survival Kit” and was created during the COVID shut-down, when families were at home together with limited access to support resources. We wanted to provide some hands on tips and treats to help occupy kids and give families things that encouraged positive interactions.
- A family guidebook in English and Spanish that provides some brief introductory information on the importance of increasing your emotional vocabulary.
- There are several colorful pages with Finally Home’s SuperHero characters making different facial expressions that represent various levels and kinds of emotions.
- We’ve included a page of suggested activities. In other words, once you identify your BIG emotion, what can you do to be the boss of your emotions rather than letting your emotions lead you into unsafe and unhelpful behaviors?
- To support working through these behaviors, the BIG Emotions Toolkit is full of choices that include fidgets, a stuffed animal, coloring pages, an mp3 player with quiet music, and several other options to equip kids and families to make a positive action plan for regulating BIG emotions.
Who are they for?
They were designed to help parents, teachers, counselors, and caregivers teach children and youth how to recognize their emotions, honor them, and calm themselves down. Anyone can use them, because we all have something to learn about managing BIG emotions. Children and youth who have been through trauma, and those with special needs, find the BIG Emotions Toolkit especially helpful.
How can you get one?
These toolkits are available on the Finally Home store. We have coupons for active foster, adoptive, and kinship families, and group discounts for schools, agencies and churches. Simply fill out the form below and our team will get in touch ASAP with options available to you.