Helping Children to Manage their Feelings Constructively

By Magda Zambet, Educational Director,
Gradinita Rasarit kindergarten in Bucharest, Romania

No matter how loving and safe of an environment we try to create for children, as parents and teachers we need to be aware that, at some point, they will have to face painful situations that we are powerless to prevent.

It can be very hard to watch children going through emotions. It is so hard to listen to a child cry or have an intense, outraged temper tantrum. We can easily identify with their pain, which can be very uncomfortable and lead us to just want to make them stop. However, children need to express their feelings. It is important to learn to accept their feelings as perfectly normal. If their sentiments are allowed to be expressed, then they cannot turn into frustration. It is so important that children learn to understand their feelings. That way they will know what they want and they will know how to make choices and deal with limits.

We know how pure, wonderful and wise our children are, and that they need freedom. However, they are still dependent on adults and they also need us to keep them safe. When adults do not have clear boundaries and are too permissive or inconsistent, then the children’s behavior will reflect this.

Children rightly deserve and need our attention. Because of this, if they cannot get enough attention at home, they may develop behaviors to attract attention in any way that works. The need for attention varies from child to child. If you suspect that a child’s behavior is demonstrating a need for attention, then do make time for them. An unconditional loving presence will nourish the child’s needs.

When you see a child overwhelmed with intense feelings of sadness, disappointment and anger control your urge to “fix” the situation, or to become overprotective in order to prevent such situations from reoccurring. Rather try to sing, to hug him and to breathe deeply in a confident, relaxed way together with him. Depending on the child’s preferences, you may also try to give him a gentle massage, and snuggle up together whispering a little spontaneously made-up story. Singing cleanses the whole vibrational field of the child, breathing calms distress and hugs heal the hurts by helping the child to feel that they are not alone.

When adults find their inner balance and are able to create safety by feeling confident and in charge of the situation, then it is much more easy to interact with the child because their own inner being will directly transmit reassurance, calm and safety.

Using Persona Dolls to foster Pro-Diversity

The “We all have a story” project has just completed the second phase of the trainings – in which we shared the “persona dolls” technique with the 100 Bucharest kindergarten teachers participating in the project. The dolls were handmade in a social enterprise creating jobs for single, homeless mothers and are designed to represent different types of diversity – special needs, minority ethnicities, etc. The dolls are not meant to be another toy for the children to play with, rather they have a very specific role in the classroom and are one of the teacher’s didactic tools. The most important feature of the dolls, is not their physical appearance – but rather a detailed, realistic, elaborate biography that the teacher constructs, taking care to accurately represent diversity and avoid stereotypes.

The doll is then introduced to the group as a friend, visiting from another kindergarten. He or she whispers into the teacher’s ear, and the teacher transmit their messages to the children. The teacher spends a few sessions introducing the doll, and once the dolls persona is well established and the children remember and bond with the doll, then the doll comes to the circle time to share different problems and obstacles she or he is facing, and asks the children’s advice. The children learn quickly to recognize and identify feelings, experience empathy and become good problem solvers.

The teachers were quite receptive to the technique and we thank Sunanda from England that sponsored buying a DVD produced by Persona Dolls Training in England “Storytelling to make a difference’ available on the website:

The next step will involve helping the teachers to integrate the dolls into their kindergartens. In the meantime – we are now preparing the third training sessions in which we will introduce real people with different types of special needs, or minority group status to the teachers and lead them through a session designed to help all of the participants know each other better through sharing their personal experiences and stories.