Mindfulness and the New ABC of Managing Difficult Feelings — for Kids
I did an experiment with my children tonight and a new favorite practice was born.
Let me explain how it came about.
I have been working with a short, soothing practice with my adult clients that is easy to remember and do “in the moment” as we go through our busy days. (I would love you to try it and post your feedback here. It takes between 2 minutes — and however long is helpful for you. The more you do it, the more it will become your automatic “go to” practice with difficult emotions.)
I call it The New ABC because it helps me recall the steps when I describe it to clients. It is something to do whenever you notice frustration, stress, sadness, anxiety, fear, agitation, anger, embarrassment — or any upset rising, large or small:
Here is how I translated it for my girls tonight and what they told me they did — not bad for a first try I think!
“So we are going to try a new mindfulness exercise tonight girls — it’s called The New ABC and it helps you with any difficult feelings you might have had today. You can do it like we are now – with something that happened during the day — and once you know it off by heart, you can also do it whenever you realize you are not feeling so good: right then and there.
So just think of a time today when you were feeling a difficult feeling — like worried, scared, angry or sad — and follow each of the four steps of The New ABC.
1: NOTICE what you are feeling. See if you can name it silently inside your head — what word would you use to describe what you were feeling?
2: ACCEPT that this is what you are feeling without pushing it away or trying to change it. Silently remind yourself that it is OK to feel this, and any other feeling that you feel, anytime.
3: BREATHE KINDNESS all around that feeling. Breathe kindness, friendship, softness and warmth into the feeling. You are soothing that feeling — like you are giving it a big hug and a gentle smile all at the same time!
4: CREATE a helpful action for that feeling. It may be something you actually want to do or it may be a simple deciding that “Breathing Kindness“ toward your difficult feelings is what you want to do more of — because it feels good and brings out the best in you.
Now just let all that go now and let your body soften and relax, breathing calmly … and when you are ready, you can open your eyes.”
I asked each of my girls if it had made sense and if they could share what they had come up with and this is what they told me:
My older daughter used an example I had witnessed a couple of hours earlier, when she had become frustrated with her younger sister and lashed out and hit her on the arm in anger. She had then run crying into the bedroom because she was reminded that hitting was not ok — and because she was overcome with a big, difficult emotion.
Notice: I noticed that I was angry with her.
Accept: I told myself that it is OK to be angry but not OK to hit.
Breathing Kindness: I breathed in kindness and a hug.
Create: I decided that next time I would go away and calm down then come back and say sorry.
My younger daughter used an example I had not been aware of, when she had seen a dog she wanted to pat on the beach earlier in the day.
Notice: I noticed that I was feeling anxious and embarrassed about going up to someone I didn’t know to ask if I could pat her dog. I was scared she would say no and then I would be sad and would have to walk away feeling embarrassed.
Accept: I told myself that it was OK for me to feel that way
Breathing Kindness: I wrapped myself up in soft, warm kindness like a big cloud
Create: I reminded myself that I go up to new dogs a lot and most of the owners are really friendly and don’t mind me patting their dogs — so this lady probably will too. So even though I am feeling anxious I can still do it.
I thought they both did a really good job and I was so happy that this had been easy to understand and helpful too. My older daughter asked what it was called again — and I just listened as her younger sister recited each of the steps clearly and accurately.
I would love to hear if you use this practice yourself — and with your children and if all of you find it helpful — and as easy to remember as we do. Please leave your feedback in the comment section.
I know our family will be using this again and again!
If you would like a downloadable copy of the graphic used in the blog, email me at [email protected] and I would be happy to send one your way.
Edwards, K. (2018). Mindfulness and the New ABC of Managing Difficult Feelings — for Kids. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 28, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/mindfulness-and-the-new-abc-of-managing-difficult-feelings-for-kids/