Thursday, April 7, 2011

I Was So Mad: An Activity for Social Emotional Development

My son and I read I Was So Mad by Mercer Mayer the other night.  It was a spontaneous book choice on his part, but as we read it, I realized that we had happened upon a great opportunity to enhance his social-emotional development. Social-emotional development refers to a child's ability to manage his emotions, skillfully negotiate with friends and family, and understand who he is and how he relates to the world. It emerges over time as children grow from feisty self-centered toddlers into (sometimes) empathetic, (more) cooperative school-agers.  Although the concept of social-emotional development is complex and multi-faceted, a large part of it involves being able to identify and work with the multitude of emotions that we all face as a part of being human.

As my son and I read I Was So Mad, we used it as a springboard to talk about the emotion of being, well, MAD. We talked about the things that make us feel angry and described  how our bodies feel when we start to get mad (I, for one, start to clench my jaw a wee bit too tightly). We discussed the idea that it's okay to feel angry--everyone does!--but that some of the things people do when they are mad are not okay. Then we talked about all the things we can do to help our bodies calm down when we are mad so that we make good choices along the way. Finally, we made our own "mad" book: one page included drawings of things that make us angry, another was comprised of pictures we drew of ourselves feeling mad, and yet another depicted the variety of ways we could calm down when our bodies were starting to feel angry and out of control.

Activities like this can help your child start to recognize and label the emotions that creep around inside him every day. Emotions can be especially confusing to children with language delays or diagnoses such as autism, but all children benefit from being gently guided through the overwhelming and sometimes bewildering emotions that often seem to come out of nowhere.  Describing how emotions make our bodies feel and drawing pictures of what this looks like makes the squishy concept of emotions much more concrete--and less scary-- to young children. Brainstorming ideas to help calm our bodies down and drawing pictures of those ideas helps children recognize that they have a choice in actions when they are angry, even if they doesn't have a choice in what they are feeling. Putting it all together into a book gives children something tangible to return to time and time again as their ability to manage their emotions unfolds over time. All together, activities such as these nudge your child a bit further down that long and bumpy road of social-emotional development. And that's good for everyone.  :)


5 comments:

  1. Thanks for this post. I'm having two kids (4 and 2yrs) and I know this topic will have to be discussed sooner or later.
    I'm now following you.

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  2. My son has a communication disorder. We used books to help him understand emotions. For many months after his diagnosis, I also labeled facial expressions and body language on people we saw, identifying angry faces, tired faces, happy faces, etc. He had to learn it all the hard way -- but now, unless he is in a large group of people he doesn't know well -- he does great!

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  3. LOVE Mercer Mayer books, and as always sppreciate how you help me bring the every day life activities to use! Thanks!

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  4. I always love Mercer Mayer books... What a good way to start talking about emotions... I need to start getting some books to help my daughter deal a little more with that "mad" feeling...
    Returning the visit from Mom Loop

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  5. Thanks for linking this to Read.Explore.Learn. What a great discussion on feelings!

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