Exploring feelings & emotions

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1 Exploring feelings & emotions Young people often need help to develop the skills they need to cope with life s challenges and to deal with their emotional health and wellbeing. Vanessa Rogers examines various exercises designed to help them express their feelings and emotions, encouraging them to consider positive solutions and avoid unnecessary tension and aggression Vanessa Rogers is a youth work trainer, consultant and author. Her books are available from or Jessica Kingsley Publishers, For training and consultancy, go to Page 1 of 5

2 Exercise 1 Colour Warm-up This icebreaker encourages young people to discuss their feelings and emotions through colour. Squares of paper or card in assorted colours Begin the session by introducing the idea that colours can represent feelings and emotions. Make sure that you stress that this is not an exact science! Different colours may mean different things to different people. A good example of this is the colour red, which can mean anger and hate to one person and love and passion to another. Once group members has grasped the idea, ask them to form smaller groups or work in pairs. Hand out a good selection of coloured squares with a pen to each pair. Ask the young people to look carefully at the squares and think about what feelings or emotions they associate with the colours. Then, use a pen to write the word on the colour. If a colour evokes a different response from each partner, write both words on the card. When everybody has finished, ask the whole group to form a circle and discuss their findings. Is there any pattern or theme emerging? Are there many cards with two or more words on? What colours would the group choose to decorate a room to relax in, dance in or work in? To finish, ask everyone to choose a colour to represent how they feel at the moment to close the session. Page 2 of 5

3 Exercise 2 Name that Feeling This activity encourages young people to identify how they feel in different circumstances and encourages them to consider solutions that will not lead to tension and aggression. Copies of the Name that Feeling sheet, folded into a concertina so that only the first scenario shows Begin the session by talking about the wide range of emotions that we all feel. Introduce the idea that sometimes these feelings either get in the way of how we deal with a situation or are not identified correctly. So the problem remains unresolved or becomes larger and we feel less able to deal with it. Ask the young people to think about a time when a problem got worse because of something they did or did not do. What feelings do they remember? Hand out the Name that Feeling sheet, folded up so that only the first scenario can be seen. Ask everyone to read the situation and then consider the questions posed at the top of the sheet. Facilitate a group feedback for each of the situations. Do the young people all see the problem in the same way? Do they agree the feelings that might arise? How easy is it to think through some ideas for solutions? Questions For each of the situations below think about the following: What is the problem? What is the feeling? What can be done? 1. Your friend always has more pocket money than you do. It is not fair. Your mum is so mean; she says you should do some jobs around the house if you want more cash. 2. Your dad has left home to live with his new girlfriend. He said you could stay at weekends, but now his girlfriend is saying that there is not enough room for you. 3. Someone keeps calling your mum names and making offensive remarks about your family. Finally, encourage the group to think about some examples of their own to share and work through together. 4. Your friend won an art competition. You are really fed up and think it must have been a fix. You know yours was better. 5. A girl keeps teasing you about your accent and making everyone laugh at you. When you try and answer back, she just mimics you and everyone laughs more. 6. The whole class is kept in after school for something you did. Now everyone is telling you to own up or else... Page 3 of 5

4 Exercise 3 Feelings and Ownership of Feelings This activity encourages young people to reflect on the way they feel and behave in difficult or challenging situations. The aim is to try and encourage an additional step in the process so that they think things through e.g. feel, think and then do. A Feelings and Ownership of Feelings sheet for each person Open the activity by suggesting that how we feel can really impact on how we behave. Sometimes this can be very positive, e.g. feeling that something is unjust can spur someone on to doing something to change things, or it can keep people safe, i.e. feeling scared so running to safety. However, sometimes the feelings can be so intense that they lead to spur-of-the-moment behaviour, which is not always positive or justified, e.g. lashing out without thinking things through properly. Hand out the worksheets and encourage the young people to reflect on positive feelings in the first section. Ask them to really picture their favourite things and remember how they feel when they experience them, e.g. feeling happy and excited when a favourite track comes up on a playlist. Move on to explore how it feels if someone, e.g. a parent, teacher or even friend, interrupts and puts a stop to the experience. Once again, encourage them to reflect on feelings of anger, frustration or sadness and note them down. Finally, ask the young people to consider their likely behaviour if this happens. Do they mind being interrupted? Do they get angry or aggressive? Are they likely to insist, for example, that their TV show is switched back on? Suggest that feelings can lead to behaviour that people regret later. However, by putting an extra mental step into the process and thinking before acting, the likelihood of this is reduced. Invite each young person to choose something that is likely to anger them, but this time write it as an equation: FEELING x THINKING = BEHAVIOUR Finally, each person should make a pledge to put this into place the next time it happens. Record the equation and pledges to reflect on any changes in behaviour next time the situation arises. Worksheet Name Date Write the emotion you feel when you experience your favourite things: 1) FOOD 2) DRINK 3) SPORT 4) MUSIC 5) PLACES TO GO OUT 6) PLACES TO STAY IN How do you feel if someone stops you doing these favourite things? How are you likely to behave? Page 4 of 5

5 Exercise 4 Expressing Angry Feelings This activity contains a worksheet that considers how similes can be used to effectively express emotions and describe feelings of anger and/or aggression. A worksheet and pen for each person Flipchart and markers Open the activity by suggesting that sometimes people use well known sayings to express their emotions as a form of shorthand to tell others how they are feeling, without going into too much detail. For example, someone might say I saw red to describe losing their temper. Invite other examples and then list them on the flipchart paper. To explore this in more detail, ask the young people to invent some of their own. Next, handout a worksheet and pen and set the young people the task of filling in the blanks. Explain that this use of words is called a simile, i.e. a figure of speech that compares one thing with another thing of a different kind (e.g., as brave as a lion). The final statement asks people to make up a simile to describe how they feel when they are angry. This can be by adapting one they have already heard used before, e.g. stubborn as a mule, or by devising a brand new one. Once everyone has completed their sheet, go through their answers. Where people have different answers, invite discussion about where they have heard this, who uses this simile and through that consider regional and cultural differences. Ask the young people: Why is it important for people to show how they are feeling, or talk to someone they trust about how they are feeling? Conclude that it is good to learn as many positive ways as possible to express feelings of anger, rather than suppressing them or becoming aggressive. Exercise 5 Warm Glows & Cold Prickles This activity is particularly suited to young people aged 10 to 13 or those with additional needs. It encourages young people to consider things that help them to feel good and things that contribute to feeling bad. A cloud & prickle shape for each participant Craft materials e.g. sequins, glitter, material etc. (optional) A display area Prepare for the session by making a template of a simple scalloped-edged cloud shape (approximately 12cm long) and a similar size one of a spiky-edged cloud shape. one copy of each shape, cut out ready to use, for each young person. Introduce the session by asking the young people to call out how they feel if someone does something kind or positive for them. Acknowledge the answers that could include things like cared for, loved, happy, respected or grateful, and suggest that these things can make a person feel a warm glow of pleasure. Then ask how they feel if someone says or does something unkind and repeat the same process. These answers might include sad, angry, embarrassed or frightened. Suggest that a way of describing them is cold prickles. Suggest that while giving warm glows often encourages the same behaviour in return e.g. if someone smiles at you, it is actually quite difficult not to smile back delivering a cold prickle might lead to unpleasant behaviour back, e.g. hitting someone can result in being hit back and a fight starting. Hand each young person a cloud and prickle shaped piece of paper and pens. Ask them to write something that makes them feel a warm glow on the cloud shape, and the opposite on the prickle shape. For example, spending time with a friend, listening to music or stroking a pet might help someone feel good, while being called a name or not being invited to a party could leave someone feeling sad and unhappy. They can then decorate the shapes in colours that reflect how they feel. Once completed, make a display separating out the two and placing under the headings warm glow and cold prickles. Discuss what has been suggested and consider developing on this session to build confidence and assertiveness skills to manage the prickles effectively and so, hopefully, lessen their impact. Page 5 of 5

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