Preschooler Teaches Her Younger Sister About Emotions While Learning To Manage Her Own

classroom management  emotional intelligence  member highlight  positive parenting 

By Ashley Patek

Preschooler Teaches Her Younger Sister About Emotions While Learning To Manage Her Own

Parenting. It’s one of the most incredible rides of your life, and it is also not without its bumps, hills, and sometimes even steep mountains. Kelly, a mama to two daughters, 4.5-year-old Violet and 21-month-old Olivia, felt she was headed uphill without relief in sight. “I was struggling. Overwhelmed. And out of ideas on how to manage my daughters’ meltdowns.” 

Kelly shares that Violet had been experiencing major emotional highs and lows for one to two years. “We are talking erratic, insane meltdowns here, where I often felt at a complete loss for how to support her through these roller coaster rides.” 

This is when Kelly’s sister, Ali, introduced her to Generation Mindful’s Time-In ToolKit. Ali had been using the ToolKit, SnuggleBuddies, and the book Heart’s Treasure Hunt in her Waldkinder’s Pedagogy daycare - a curriculum based on nature, exploration, and social-emotional skill-building. “I use the tools during circle time,” says Ali. “And, because we are outdoors often, the travel version that came free with our Time-In ToolKit has been extremely useful. I carry it with me regularly and pull it if there are hurt feelings or bodies. Because of the transformation in my classroom, I knew these tools would help my sister, too.”

Kelly admits that she was hesitant at first. “When my sister first turned us on to the ToolKit, I thought, sure, great, another gimmick for a tired, worn-out parent that is probably too complicated to tackle in the heat of the moment. Reading about what escalates emotions and how to de-escalate them is helpful and I felt like I understood it. But, when you’re IN IT, it’s hard to have the clarity to know what steps to take.”

Together with her girls, Kelly created a calming nook in Violet’s bedroom where she could see her feelings posters and the PeaceMakers chart daily - a place where she could feel safe to tap into her emotions. “I have been surprised at how supportive these tools are. Not just telling me why and how, but giving me the step-by-step tools to regulate with my daughters. After teaching her about her emotions via a big dose of play and consistency, Violet is able to classify exactly what emotions she is feeling and can reset by choosing calming activities.”

Being able to identify her mood sensations and memorize calming strategies has been a huge win for the family. But Kelly says that even more profound is how these tools have lived in the face of big emotions. “What’s been quite frankly a miracle is that even when Violet is having a complete emotional meltdown, sometimes just my offering to get the feelings poster is enough to help her shift and she looks forward to going over the chart and talking about how she’s feeling. I never thought in the heat of the moment that we would be able to see success like that.”

Kelly was in for another unexpected surprise. “Olivia is learning, too, just by watching Violet! Olivia now loves to walk around saying, ‘hap-py, hap-py’ because Violet has taught her to look at the posters and point to what and how she’s feeling. While Olivia doesn’t have the emotional depth yet to label any other feelings, just by noticing ‘happy’ and what happy looks like, it’s a start. And because Violet is able to teach her younger sister about emotions, it helps her to build confidence and deepen her own emotional understanding.”

This path has not only nurtured the girls’ individual understanding but empathy, too. “A few weeks ago, I happened to catch my girls hugging and patting each other’s backs. Then, they pulled away from one another and Violet said, ‘Do you want another hug?’, to which Olivia replied, ‘No’. And Violet listened. Not only was it so sweet to see them truly connect, but I watched them respect one another’s needs and boundaries.”

It has been a journey and it will continue to turn and wind, but Kelly feels like she can finally take a breath. “This has been an incredibly difficult year. I think all parents can agree. And meeting the needs of younger children, in particular those who do not have the full ability to express what they are feeling and what they are going through, has made these challenges even more difficult to tackle. We are so grateful for the tools provided by GENM to help us navigate some of this and gain some control during a time when we haven’t been able to control anything.” 

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** These members have permitted GENM to write and share their story. 

For a free set of printable calming strategies and video on how to use time-ins, join our mailing list. Generation Mindful creates educational tools, toys, and programs that nurture emotional intelligence through play and positive discipline.

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