Teaching children how to regulate their emotions and find safe ways to express and cope with them is crucial. Sometimes finding developmentally appropriate ways to teach emotion regulation that engages children is the harder part.
I am constantly inspired by the interactions I have with children. Just the other day I was talking with a child in my office who exclaimed randomly, “Okay, make me a treasure map to something!” then ran in the corner with eyes closed in anticipation for some kind of surprise. I was taken off guard at first and then started drawing a treasure map to happiness with some coping skill clues along the way. I hid visual representations for the feelings and coping skills in my office to correspond with the map. I drew the map starting with finding a hidden sad feeling face visual (with clues of where to find it in the office). Then the map led the child to three pinwheels somewhere else in the office and to take three deep breaths. The coping and relaxation skills were clues to the “treasure” which was a happy feeling visual hidden somewhere else in the office. It was delightful to watch this child eagerly search for the clues and then excitedly verbalize how the clues led to changing the feeling from sad to happy.
It is amazing what we can learn from children when we leave our hearts open to meeting them where they are!
Making a treasure map to feeling happy and calm can be a fun and engaging way to assist children in practicing relaxation and coping skills and seeing how these can change their feelings. The maps can be very versatile and can start with different feelings based on the child’s unique needs (angry, anxious, etc.). I’m hoping to start making them with more children and making them even more exciting by making the map to correspond with clues outside for outdoor sessions.