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  • Dayna Sharp, LCSW

Teaching Kids to Listen to their Bodies


We first notice that a child may need help coping with feelings because of their behaviors. Perhaps they have tantrums or meltdowns, are "acting out" in school, or maybe they seem "too" shy around their peers or in new situations. We see the behaviors and in the best of circumstances, even in the face of the distress and conflict they can cause, we try to understand what's underneath them.


So we start talking about feelings. "I understand you were feeling angry, but you can't kick and scream". "Just because you were bored in class doesn't mean you can get up and walk around". "I know you can feel worried about meeting new people and lots of people feel that way. But once you get to know them, I think you'll really like them...". And it's great when kids can start to put feelings into words, because then they won't need to act them out. But there's still a critically important missing piece.


How does a child know what they're feeling? And what do they do with it? Before it's too late?


When kids learn about feelings, with the help of their grown ups, they can confidently connect behaviors with emotions. They can figure out that they acted in a certain way because they felt a certain feeling. But if we want kids to cope with feelings, we need to teach them to understand their feelings--to be able to recognize when feelings are just starting, so that they can respond to them before the feelings get too big! We need to teach our children how to listen to their bodies!


When children come to Creating Space Counseling and Wellness, part of the work is always trying to understand how they experience their feelings. Where does anger live in your body? Can you draw a picture to show me? What do you feel? Most kids will say they start to feel warm and tight in their bodies, with their heart beating faster when they begin to feel angry. They soon are able to recognize those sensations and practice calming and coping skills BEFORE it gets out of the child's control. Similarly, children describe anxiety as butterflies in their stomach or a general shaking feeling in their bodies. Once they recognize these sensations as Anxiety, they can see it coming, and feel more secure and in control of themselves. They can cope with the feelings, once they understand it.


Listening to My Body


There is a wonderful book called "Listening to My Body" by Gabi Garcia that walks children through the process of how to listen to their bodies, how to recognize and name their bodily sensations and of course, how to cope with the feelings. Every child--and adult--can benefit from learning these skills, and I highly recommend it. Click here for a video read-aloud of the book or buy it here.


If you are interested in helping your child learn to listen to their body, so that they can feel more secure and better cope with the stresses of life, call today to schedule an appointment! If you are an adult who could also benefit from learning to listen to your body, I'm happy to work with you as well. Call today to schedule an appointment! 856-281-1664

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