Little people can have BIG feelings. It's our job as adults to be there for them when their feelings get intense to remind them feelings are normal; They aren't scary, they aren't bad, and they aren't permanent. They can be felt and they can be managed. Even as a grown-up, that's hard to remember!
As Mr. Rogers said: “Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we are not alone.” It is so important to talk though feelings with our kids, both their feelings AND our own. But in the moment of upset, the most important thing is to help our children find a way to return to peace. THEN we can reflect on our feelings. How do we do that? Enter "Chill Skills."
I first heard this term in a book called "Zach Gets Frustrated." (You can buy it HERE or see a PDF of it HERE) In this book, a boy named Zach gets frustrated when his kite wont fly. Dad swoops in to help using the three corners of the kite to illustrate a way to get past frustration with three steps: 1. Name it, 2. Tame it, 3. Reframe it. So name what is frustrating you (my kite wont fly), use a "CHILL SKILL" to tame your feelings (deep breaths etc), and then think of a way to view the situation positively (I can't fly my kite, but it's a beautiful day and I'm at the beach so maybe I can play in the ocean instead).
My son was struggling with his frustration and this book helped a lot, but I found the few calming down tricks we knew (like the one from Daniel Tiger) didn't always cut it. Sometimes he just needed to be physical or loud, sometimes quiet and reflective did the trick. But of course in the moment of upset it's hard to think of what you might need to feel better. So I decided to make some Chill Skill Cards so when upset hit and we needed to tame it, I could let him pick a chill skill and do it. And you know what - not only are the skills themselves pretty helpful, but the act of handing him the cards and looking through them by itself often takes the edge off the meltdown!
It's also important as adults that we model what healthy emotions look like. And that doesn't mean not having any! It's important for children to see us work through our feelings, too! My son has even taken to reminding me "you could use a chill skill, Mama" when I start to toe the line of upset myself! It's ok to have emotions in front of your kids including sadness, anger, frustration, even fear, so long as you ALSO show your child how you deal with those feelings and that you are in control ( of your feelings AND the situation, so they continue to feel safe.)
So I wanted to share these tools for the trenches with all of you, in case they help. Of course, you can always create your own, but below you can see the ones I created and also download a PDF of them all. I cut mine out and then laminated them with self-seal laminating sheets. (You can get them at any office supply store or online and you don't need a laminator to use them.) You may find this step saves you from having to reprint them down the line - those big feelings often come with big wet tears.
A little more about these cards. You will see some have a blue adult/child logo on them. These are ones that may require adult help. Others have a green tool box in the corner. Those indicate that the items needed to do that chill skill are in our chill skill toolbox, a literal box of things I have put together for him to use when he needs them. In that box I have calm down jars (like this), bubbles, straws, and pinwheels for blowing, stress balls (like this) and putty/play-doh for squeezing, pipe cleaners and other various fidget type toys for some mindless fiddling... that sort of stuff. So without further ado, here are our Chill Skill Cards (followed by the PDF so you can download and print your own.)