The past couple of weeks Ronin’s little league baseball team was in the playoffs. The season definitely started with some strong emotions on both of our parts, being his first year playing. But he ended up LOVING it. And as the kids got into a groove and gelled as a young team things started to get really exciting. They were winning against teams they had lost to in the regular season. And what a joy seeing him get hits almost every at-bat, when he started the season with strike outs every time. Each and every kid on his team was doing well, trying so hard and never giving up. It was so much fun to watch!
But with each new team they faced in the playoffs, Ronin mentioned how scared he was to play because “they beat us before!” And even though they won enough games to be guaranteed the second place spot in their division, he was still freaking out before what would be their final game, a game against a team that had only lost one game all season long.
As his emotions unraveled the night before, I found myself a bit lost with how to handle it. He’s so much like me in so many ways, particularly with his anxiety. We might not look it on the surface, but there can be an emotional roller coaster going on inside.
It started with “Mommy, I’m scared to play the Cougars.” I could see the emotion swelling in his little seven-year-old face. I felt his heart pounding as he leaned up against me. I tried to talk him through it, remind him of how well they’d been playing, how even though they never beat this team before, he just had to do his best and have fun. But it wasn’t really working.
We walked upstairs to get ready for bath and he kept bringing it up. “I’m really scared to play the Cougars.” I tried to reassure him but he started to get angry. The anxiety seemed to overwhelm him and he started to throw things, and even throw a ball at me.
Of course then I got mad and held onto his shoulders as he struck out at me (more from anxiety than Anger) and I yelled. I’m never proud when I yell, but let’s face it, it happens. I was really getting frustrated with him, and with myself for not knowing how to handle the obviously emotional situation.
But then we looked at each other square in the face and both started laughing. The tension between us released.
He jumped into the bath but the anxiety talk continued. It finally occurred to me that he may not realize that even if they lost to the Cougars, they were still going to be second place and the team would get a trophy. He’s very into medals and trophies and has always wanted to earn one. As I spoke the words, you should have seen the transformation on his face.
And then he burst into tears. Ahhh!
I was like “Wait! What?! Why are you crying!?”
He broke off crying for just a moment to say “It’s liquid pride … and I can’t stop!” Hahaha! We all laughed so hard after that one, a term he learned from My Little Pony meaning that they were happy tears.
They ended up losing the big game 21-20, but boy did they play great. I’m just so very proud of Ronin and his whole team of really terrific kids.
A few days later, I was talking to Ronin and Ellie about how we would be seeing a screening of Inside Out before it’s out in theaters. They’d seen several previews on the iPad and were excited to see it. I had also bought some Inside Out toys at Toys “R” Us and of course that motivated several discussions about emotions, since the main characters (and their little action figures) are named after feelings. There’s Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger and Disgust.
As the kids asked me exactly what each of the words/characters meant, I realized that I had a perfect example of several emotions wrapped up in one recent event. That incident with Ronin and his baseball game. As babies, Ronin and Ellie’s emotions were always one-note. They were happy. They were sad. They were mad. But as they’ve gotten older, more often than not, multiple emotions wrap up in one big knot, and that’s hard to explain or help them navigate.
I used the example from above to show Ronin how his fear of playing the Cougars also made him mad, but then he became happy once he realized they had already done so well and would be getting a trophy no matter what. The emotions started to make more sense to him. I know they’ve studied feelings in school, but I think this is something that we have to keep talking to our kids about, because feelings and emotions become more complex. And as time goes on they may be afraid to talk about it if we haven’t started that conversation early.
We did get to see Inside Out this week (review here) and let me tell you, we’ve had several more of these great conversations about feelings.
Ellie now knows exactly what Disgust is! “When you see a slug, that’s Disgust! Ewww!”
This morning on the way to school, she asked me who my favorite character was from the movie. To her surprise, I said Sadness. I explained that Sadness is important because when we’re sad, that brings us together with the people we love. We can share our Sadness with our friends and family and they’re there for us, and we become closer because of it. She instantly pulled out an example from Inside Out. “Mommy, like when Riley…” (I won’t give you the spoiler!) But I was so impressed that a 5-year-old would not only grasp the concept but even know the perfect example from a film she just saw two nights earlier.
Ironically, Ellie was actually truly feeling Sadness in this pic because her last day of Preschool was just over when I took it. I had seen some angry faces from her too. Her emotions were a bit of a roller coaster because she knows she won’t be going to Kindergarten with her preschool friends next year. But it was so much easier having that Sadness/Anger discussion with her because it’s so fresh in her mind and we have their new flash cards and Inside Out toys to help.
My Free Printable Emotions Flash Cards Inspired by Inside Out are available for download here:
The flash cards are Ellie and Ronin approved. Ellie helped me take the photos and Ronin proofread the copy. He’s getting so good at reading, my big almost 2nd grader. I printed mine on 5 x 7 photo paper so they’re a heavy glossy card stock.
I’ve also got several other Inside Out printable kids activities here including a maze, coloring pages, a printable board game and even nail manicure art!
Or you can buy the set of Inside Out Figures we purchased at Toys “R” Us and use them as a jumping point for discussing your kids emotions. Having the word tied to the visual of a character has brought our feelings discussions alive.
How do you talk to your kids about their emotions? Do you use toys to help?