Life comes with a lot of challenges. Sometimes these challenges can lead to frustration. I find one of my most effective ways to empower the children I work with is to give them tools that help them navigate big emotional experiences, like frustration. What triggers frustration can be different for each individual. Some examples of triggers are: chores, homework, a fight with a friend, learning to play an instrument, and feeling misunderstood. My hope is for students to recognize the onset of frustration and know they have the resources to care for their feelings.
Here are a few activities to help students recognize the onset of frustration and learn how to care for themselves, along with a short video practice that you can do any time or place.
Activity #1: Create a Frustration List
Challenging situations arise daily. It is useful for children to know what situations cause them frustration. We have more control over our emotions when we can label what is happening during an experience.
With older students, have a discussion about the frustrating moments in their lives. After the discussion, have students make a list of what causes them feelings of frustration. It will help them feel more in control when they talk and reflect on situations that trigger frustration. Encourage them to observe over the next few days what happens in their bodies during those moments of frustration.
A visual aid can be helpful for younger students when making a list. Create an outline of a flower and cut out petals. On each petal write something that causes frustration. Keep the flower visible and encourage children to add petals when new frustrating tasks arise.
Activity #2: Make a Body Map
Body mapping can help children make connections between their bodies and their emotions. Use a body outline template or outline a body on a big roll of paper.
Ask the child to think about a time they felt frustrated and notice what happens to their body. Some observations might be fists clenching, face feels hot, shoulders and jaw tense up, or breath changes. Explain that these sensations are their body’s way of communicating with them. Have the child color, draw, or write in the areas on the body map where they feel sensation when they feel frustrated.
Activity #3: Tense and Release
When students can recognize sensations of their body, they can begin to care for their emotions.
Tense and release, also known as progressive muscle relaxation, is a technique to promote relaxation in the body and relieve stress. This practice can be taught before a frustrating task. Take a slow deep breath and squeeze the muscle groups in your body that feel tight during frustration, such as fists and shoulders. Hold for 3-5 seconds, then release the tension and notice how your muscles feel when you relax them. Tense and release those areas a few times and check in with how they are feeling.
This exercise will help to lower tension in the body, and help relax in moments of frustration.
Activity #4: Practice the Pause with Challenging Yoga Poses
Explore frustration in a playful way with balance poses.
Tell your students you are going to practice challenging poses and they may feel frustration. When they start to feel frustration they can pause, take a breath and try the pose again. This video will show you how to prepare a child to pause and care for themselves during feelings of frustration.
Check out the 4 minute video below for a great example of how we can safely explore frustration while caring for ourselves. I had the honor to be a part of a series of videos created by Little Flower Yoga’s in collaboration with GoNoodle. GoNoodle helps teachers and parents get kids moving with short interactive activities. You can find the full series of videos by searching for the Empower tools series on GoNoodle's website.
Thanksgiving is the perfect holiday to help students and our own children cultivate an “attitude of gratitude.” And it turns out, there’s a lot to like about gratitude. Research from the Greater Good Science Center tells us that gratitude actually blocks toxic emotions even as it allows us to celebrate the present. What’s more, grateful people are more stress-resistant and have a higher sense of self-worth.
In this video, Greater Good Science Center's Christine Carter discusses the connection between gratitude and happiness in children discusses gratitude as a tool to help people become more helpful and feel happier, stronger, more energized, and more determined.
Here are few activities to inspire gratitude as a family or in the classroom
Activity #1: Put together a Thankfulness Tree
Create a large tree and cut out leaves. On the leaves write things you are thankful for. Thankfulness fills us up and reminds us how beautiful is, just like when we add leaves to the Thankfulness Tree. Add leaves to your tree for a few weeks. You can also make a 3D version with a tree branch and hang the leaves from the branches with yarn or string.
Activity #2: Make a Giving Thanks Jar
Dedicate a jar (decorate one, if you wish) and have little pieces of paper ready to write on beside it. You may want to make a routine of adding cards to the jar, or just let people add items as they wish, each with something you are grateful for. At a specified time, sit down with the family and read the cards together as a family or class. Here is a very simple version that is super sweet: http://www.thatswhatchesaid.net/giving-thanks-jar/
Activity #3: Three Good Things
This activity has been shown in research studies to cultivate feelings of well-being. In clinical trials, writing down three positive things (either daily or weekly) for a period of six months was found to increase levels of happiness that persisted six months later. Take the time to consider 3 events or interactions that wen’t well today. Identifying and talking about “3 good things” can be done a variety of ways. Here are a few ideas:
Activity #4: Read a book on Gratitude Together (here are few great ones)
1. All the World By Liz Garton Scanlon (Preschool to 3rd grade)
Following a circle of family and friends through the course of a day from morning till night, this book affirms the importance of all things great and small in our world, from the tiniest shell on the beach, to warm family connections, to the widest sunset sky.
2. Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are? by Dr. Deuss (Preschool-4th Grade)
This classic book provides the perfect antidote for readers of all ages who are feeling a bit down in the dumps. Thanks to Dr. Seuss’s trademark rhymes and signature illustrations, readers will, without a doubt, realize just how lucky they truly are.
3. Thanks a Million by Nikki Grimes (1st Grade to 5th Grade)
In sixteen extraordinary poems that range in form from a haiku to a rebus to a riddle, Nikki Grimes reminds us how wonderful it is to feel thankful, and how powerful a simple "thank you" can be.
Activity #5: Play the Gratitude Game: Pick Up Sticks
This is a homemade version of Pick-up Sticks, with a twist. With this game, each time you pick up a stick you have to name something you are grateful for. Each color represents a different type of thing. It’s a great way to get the kids really thinking in different ways about all that they can be grateful for! Check out http://teachbesideme.com/gratitude-game-pick-sticks/ for instructions on this activity.
ABOUT MAYURI GONZALEZ:
Mayuri Gonzalez (E-RYT, RCYT) has been practicing yoga and meditation for over 20 years since her own childhood and specializes in bringing yoga and mindfulness to children. She has taught for Little Flower Yoga since 2010 and is currently the Director of The School Yoga Project, a program of LFY offering direct service yoga and mindfulness classes for preschools and K-12 schools in the Greater New York Area, staff development workshops, staff yoga, and a national affiliate program.