A Simple Self-Awareness Exercise for Anyone: The Stoplight
A modified form of CBT with active parent involvement may be a useful tool in treating anxiety disorders in preschool and early school aged children. Community Health Worker Marcela Felix practices her passion for family psychology at work, school and home. She works to help others learn how to respond to their emotions, controlling them so that they do not control us.
“I love working with kids and teenagers–often they need counseling (for which I’ll work closely with our provider Heather) but the first session or two I try to get to know them and build that trust. Playing games can help kids let their guard down. One of the things I always use is the traffic light. We make a traffic light as an arts and crafts project for emotions–especially anger. We might ask, ‘What makes you feel upset? What do you do when you’re angry? How/where do you feel that in your body? Some are able to identify this and some are not…but practice makes perfect. Kids need to learn that it is OK to be sad. Its OK to be mad. But its not OK to rip apart the room. It’s all about teaching them how to react to their emotions.
As parents we sometimes find ourselves shouting ‘don’t do that!’ in our weaker moments. In my experience, taking the time to explain ourselves like an adult allows the child to respond more maturely as well. Give options. Listen and validate. This teaches them how to react to their emotions. When you treat them with respect, you have the best odds of gaining/keeping their trust.”
As a community health worker, Marcela’s role is to emphasize with the patient what skills/interventions that the Behavioral Health Provider, who is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, is teaching the patient. Marcela’s role is to reinforce those and not to directly provide CBT techniques. If methods like the Self-Awareness Stoplight can help adults improve their overall mindfulness, why not teach it it kids? Next time you’re feeling upset remember to stop and acknowledge (Red), and wait to explore alternatives & support systems (yellow) before finally carrying on about our day (Green). Interested in more from Windrose on child and family health? Check out advice from Shelley Landis, Here!