Create Your Own Feelings Jenga Game

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Giving kids a vocabulary rich in emotion words is one of the best things you can do as a parent. This is particularly true if you are parenting kids who have experienced trauma, have anxiety or are on the autism spectrum. This Jenga Feelings Game is perfect for helping kids talk about their emotions and experiences, building their vocabulary of emotion words and improve their communication skills.

Feelings Jenga Game is perfect for therapists or parents working with kids on their emotions and expressing their experiences.I love finding ways to make this kind of teaching fun. Presenting a therapeutic activity as a game is a great way to help your child feel relaxed. Being relaxed is an important element to learning. It means your child can access all of their brain instead of being in their “lizard brain” which happens when they are feeling under stress or for any other reason are in fight, flight or freeze mode.

One of my daughters played a version of this in therapy and as soon as she told me about it, I knew we could easily make one to play at home too. We have since invented different versions of the game. Some of my kids have an easier time talking about their feelings and past experiences than others so I have found ways to adapt it accordingly. The key is to make sure they feel comfortable and relaxed. This will ensure that any learning is effective and will make it more enjoyable for everyone.

To create this Feelings Jenga Game, you will need a Jenga game. You can use a permanent marker to write feeling words on the side of the wood blocks in the game or I have created printable feeling words that can be cut out and attached to the Jenga blocks with double-sided tape or glue. In the printables, I have also left some blank so that you can add in any other feelings words that you would like to focus on.

How to play Feelings Jenga:

Once the blocks have feeling words on them, set them up as you would in a regular Jenga game. There are two variations to the set up. You can face the words in so that you can’t see them or you can face the words out so that most of them will be visible during the game. For kids who are particularly apprehensive of not being able to see the words on the inside, you can have them do the set-up so that they know what even the few hidden words are.

One way to play this game is to have to describe the word that you pull out before placing it on top. This is a nice introductory way to play and especially good for kids who don’t have a strong emotion word vocabulary.

Another way to play this game is to have the person who draws the block have to describe a time or experience in their life when they felt that particular emotion. You can expand on this by having them explain how that felt and how they coped with that positive or negative feeling.

For kids who are just starting this game or who are less comfortable talking about their feelings, it will be less difficult if the words are visible because they can pull ones that are easier for them to talk about. As they grow more comfortable with the game and with expressing their feelings, they may reach a point where they are comfortable pulling out blocks even when they can’t see what the word will be.

If you know that this particular child is too vulnerable to be able to discuss certain emotions, it may be best to not include those words in the game the first few times you play. Ease into things at their pace.

This Jenga Feelings Game is perfect for helping kids talk about their emotions and experiences.This game allows children to express their experiences and feelings in a non-threatening way. Of course, modelling is another great thing about the Feelings Jenga game because it allows you to participate and model how to talk about feelings and times in your own life when you have felt those things. The child you are playing with may be able to relate to those experiences and have a “me too” moment, which can be very powerful.

This game is great for communication skills, lowering anxiety and normalizing talking about emotions and life experiences, both challenging and successful.

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The Two Words That Suck the Joy Out of Your Day

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Words are a powerful thing. They can alter your mood, build bridges in relationships, encourage, breathe life, and transform. I’ve shared with you how two words transformed our family for the better. Those words are an example of what extraordinary power what you say and think has. Words also have the power to destroy, to tear down, to defeat nations, and to break bonds.

A few months ago, I noticed a general pattern in my moods. I was feeling less content with my life and with my circumstances. I was restless and negative. I was pretty darn unhappy to be frank. What especially scared me was that it seemed to be trending in a downward spiral. Each day, I felt worse than the one before.

Two Words you Need to Stop Saying Immediately if you want to be happyNothing in particular had changed about our circumstances. Our life has been challenging for at least the past ten years and I don’t expect that those challenges will lessen in the next five years or so but I had usually managed to maintain a mostly positive attitude despite life’s circumstances and ups and downs. I spent some time analyzing why it was that I was becoming such a negative person. I didn’t want to be the person I now saw staring back at me in the mirror. I wanted to be that person I had been, the one who could find the humour or at least the silver lining in every situation.

As I analyzed this state I was in, I could find only one difference between the me of present and the me of the past. I had allowed two seemingly innocuous words to creep into my vocabulary. The words were not a phrase that I was accustomed to using so at first, they felt strange fumbling around in my brain and even stranger when they escaped my lips.

As with most things, once I had said them out loud, they became easier and easier to say and they were in my brain, embedded like a persistent houseguest who outstays their welcome and becomes more and more at home in your dwelling.

What were these powerful words that could almost debilitate and discourage me even in a whisper?

I deserve…

“I deserve a break.”

“I deserve things to go my way for once.”

“I deserve some peace.”

“I deserve for you kids to listen to me.”

“I deserve some chocolate and a glass of wine.”

“I deserve time alone.”

“I deserve a new dress.”

“I deserve to eat out.”

“I deserve more.”

I understand that an argument could be made that I work hard and that I deserve all of those things. An argument could also be made that everyone in the world (including those in abject poverty or in developing countries) deserve those things and are not likely to get them, so I shouldn’t think that I am more worthy of those things than others.

Whether or not I actually deserve those things isn’t the point. By speaking those words, even just in thinking them, I was significantly contributing to my own unhappiness. I was focusing on the negative rather than the positive.

Instead of feeling blessed because I got five minutes to myself, I lamented about why I didn’t get an hour. Instead of being grateful that I have a house to live in, I perseverated on the thought that I deserved more help with keeping it clean. Instead of choosing thankfulness, I chose to reserve a seat to my own daily pity party and was sitting longer and longer at that table.

Thinking about how you deserve more instead of looking for all the blessings in front of you is a recipe for unhappiness. It can lead to procrastination, divorce, weariness, anger, and dismay.

Two Words You Need to Stop Saying NowOne day, I said to my son who was being rude to me,”Try that again. I deserve respect.” I’m not debating that he should have been more respectful as I am his mom, but what came out of his mouth was, “I deserve to get anything I want.” Obviously, that’s laughable as none of us get whatever we want and certainly not when we are living in our parents’ home not paying rent, but the statement shocked me because I realized immediately that I had created that attitude in him. He had been hearing me talk for weeks about all the things I deserved and he had begun to let those two words seep into his brain and infect his thoughts.

The “I deserve” virus was in fact spreading throughout our whole home. It had become an epidemic, all these little people running around asking themselves what others could do for them instead of what they could do for others because you know, they deserved the best of everything and the easiest of chores or no chores at all for that matter! The only way to stop the spread of the virus was to immediately eliminate that toxic phrase from my vocabulary.

Those words had become a habit, so it wasn’t easy to get them out of our home, but as I have consciously grabbed hold of them when they come into my mind and reminded myself of what a lie they are and how dangerous that thinking is, I think them less and less. I hear them escape my lips even less often and I’m beginning to hear them less from everyone in the family.

I read somewhere once that deservedness is a currency of shame. The idea of deserving something positive also leads to thinking of deserving negative for not measuring up. Using the words “I deserve” sends the message to our children that they can be good enough or not good enough to have positive or negative results. This could translate into things or into love. When we remove the idea of deservedness from our minds, we can have things and love and attention whether or not we did anything that amounts to “enough”. This new framework allows for gratitude and for grace.

If you aren’t convinced at the negative impact these two little words have, I hope you will be willing to humour me with a bit of an experiment. Would you go with me on a one month journey to discover how much happier you feel when you eliminate these two toxic words from your life? Would you be willing to go a little further with me in this experiment and consider replacing those two toxic words with these transformative two words that will encourage and strengthen your family? Let me know what you find.

Two Words That Will Transform Your Family square

After Your Child’s Asthma Diagnosis

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This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of a Canadian leading research based pharmaceutical company. All opinions are 100% mine.

I recently shared about how our family was affected when our oldest daughter almost died from her asthma. We were certainly aware by that point how serious asthma can be when we started noticing some shortness of breath in our middle daughter. At first, we thought that she just had a lingering cold, but we started noticing other symptoms as well.

What to do after your child's asthma diagnosisImage Copyright: wavebreakmediamicro / 123RF Stock Photo

Granola Girl began having a hard time falling asleep. She said that her lungs “felt tight”. She also sometimes had a cough. Given her sister’s asthma and knowing that there can be a hereditary component, we decided to have her tested. Given all that we had gone through with our other daughter, I hoped that we would be told she did not have asthma, but I knew in my heart what the results would be.

I didn’t want to hear those words again because of what we had already gone through but I knew that with a proper diagnosis, she could also get proper treatment. After the testing, we were told that Granola Girl did indeed have asthma. I had a mixture of emotions, sadness and fear, but yet relief that we were on the road to her feeling better.

Steps to take if your child receives as asthma diagnosis:

Stay calm. There has been a lot of advancement in asthma treatment and continues to be. Many asthmatics are able to live a very full life.

Find the right doctor. Having a doctor who is well versed in asthma is an important step to your child’s health. We have an excellent pulmonary specialist taking care of our girls and I feel confident that they are getting the best care possible.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Being well informed about asthma symptoms, treatments, side effects from treatment, and what to keep an eye on will help you help your child and effectively advocate for them.

Monitor symptoms. Monitor your child’s asthma symptoms and keep track of them using a journal, checklist or the Notes in your phone. This will help you be able to communicate with the doctor and ensure that proper treatment results in symptoms being controlled. 

Let them live. Once your child’s asthma is well controlled and you learn to watch for worsening symptoms, there is no reason why they can’t enjoy life to the fullest. Below are some pictures of our Granola Girl recently, living life and enjoying the moments. Granola Girl square collageIf you wonder if your asthma is well controlled, take the 30 Second Asthma Test and discuss the results with your doctor.  Encourage those you love to take the test as well.

Recently, a good friend of mine shared with me about her son’s symptoms and I got her in touch with our doctor (well, actually I took her and her son there because I was so concerned) and it turned out that he has asthma. He is 9 and has been having symptoms for a few years now but several doctors had misdiagnosed him with a cold or bronchitis. This illustrates exactly why it’s so important to be informed about asthma and to let people know to talk to a medical professional.

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There are Mean Girls in Adulthood Too

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The other day I went on a homeschool field trip with some of my kids. There were a few friendly faces there, moms I’ve seen at one homeschool event or another over the years and a few new faces too. I remember what it used to feel like when I would attend events as a new homeschooler and not know anyone, so I always try to reach out and make others feel welcome, whether it’s a just a friendly smile or a small attempt at making conversation. I asked one of the new moms how old her daughter was and she smiled when giving her response and I could almost feel her exhale of relief at someone having made the effort to talk to her.

There are mean girls and bullies in adulthood too. But you can use it as a teaching tool to help your kids navigate their own "mean girls" experiences.Image Copyright: keeweeboy / 123RF Stock Photo

I had noticed a mom earlier who was perfect put-together, hair and make-up done, with seemingly perfectly behaved children and THEIR hair was combed neatly. All of them, mom included had outfits. Not clothes like my thrown together look of old runners, worn-thin-long-sleeved t-shirt and jeans, but outfits. They all looked like they had stepped off the pages of a magazine. And I was intimidated. Because I don’t have outfits, don’t even own any, wouldn’t know how to put one together.

My kids used to have outfits and neatly combed hair but that was years ago and now my only goal is to get them out the door fed. I don’t even check to see that they aren’t still wearing their pyjamas because frankly, I’m pretty ok if they are seen in public in their pyjamas. Over the years I’ve discovered that there are worse things than your kids being in their pyjamas or a Princess costume in public.

As for my kids’ behaviour, it’s pretty unpredictable even in public and I couldn’t guarantee that there wouldn’t be a meltdown right there in that lobby, so I didn’t really want to approach that mom with the seemingly perfectly behaved children with the lovely coordinating outfits and recently combed hair.

I felt like I would be judged for my appearance or for my kids’ appearance. I took a quick glance over at one of my daughters whose hair looked like it hadn’t been combed in a few days (to be clear, it probably looked that way because it hadn’t) and started noticing the “outfits” my kids had seen fit to put together for themselves that morning and kind of wanted to shrink into the floor.

Then I reminded myself of all the wonderful friends I’ve met over the years at homeschool events because I walked up and started talking to someone who looked a bit lonely or like they felt out of place. I took a breath and walked over to say ‘hello’ and it wasn’t well received. She really did look at me in a disapproving way and gave signals that there was to be no further conversation. It brought up my insecurities.

I felt like I did the time in high school when everyone owned a Club Monaco sweatshirt and the yearbook committee was taking a photo in the gym in a Where’s Waldo style of everyone wearing their Club Monaco sweatshirt except that I didn’t own one.

I stayed at the field trip for awhile and felt awkward and silly and halfway through, I quietly excused myself and went to the library to work on my computer and try to stop feeling like I had made a mistake by talking to the put-together lady.

The thing is, she wasn’t mean to me. She wasn’t nice either, but she wasn’t overtly mean. For all I know, she was having a bad day or is an extreme introvert or is very shy. I’m not the least bit upset with her but it made me think about the times in my life when people have been mean.

I was bullied by a girl all throughout my elementary and junior high years. It started in Kindergarten. I wasn’t her only target but she was relentless. I had great friends and good teachers but this girl’s bullying made me dread going to school to the point of sometimes feeling physically ill. She had a couple of sidekicks in junior high that helped her spread rumours and call me names and it couldn’t help but affect how I saw myself.

High school was an overall great experience for me without the bullying I had encountered up to that point and with a great group of friends, but I still saw mean girls there and saw how they could be to others. I accepted it as “girls are just like that” and “there’s nothing more vicious than a hormonal teen girl”. I thought that once I got out of school and into the real world, there would not be any more mean girls because surely women would be respectful of each other.

As an adult, I discovered that women can be rude and gossipy and backstabbing and cliquey and just plain old mean. They can spread rumours about you or tell you that your bum is getting wider or not invite you to events that everyone else in your friend circle is invited to. They can bash your parenting behind your back or straight to your face.

Someone you considered a close friend can tell you that your choice to adopt is going to ruin your ‘real’ children. Someone who may have once been a family member can try to sabotage your marriage (true story). People can try to get you to take sides in their ‘fights’ with mutual friends. They can put you down in an attempt to build themselves up. They can be jealous and catty and cruel.

Mean Girls FBbut…There are women who are so kind and loyal and beautiful, who help each other and give of their hearts and their time and their talents. There are women who I am so blessed to know that I have met in all kinds of strange ways, including taking the risk and going up and talking to a stranger. These women have my back. They are encouraging and inspiring and real. They make me prayerfully consider my important choices and call me on my missteps when needed, but can also make me laugh until I cry. I feel so privileged to have them in my life. Their generosity and kindness far outweighs any negative experiences I’ve had in the past.

As an adult though, I have choices that as a child confined to a classroom I did not. I can choose to surround myself with people who accept me for who I am, fashion cluelessness and all. I have sometimes had to make the difficult decision to remove a toxic person from my life. I tried to do so as gracefully as I could, but my life is better for it. I can choose to assume that the lady at the homeschool field trip was judging me or I can assume that she has her own issues which may just be that she is shy and that her reaction had nothing to do with me.

I can choose to be a good friend and model what being a good friend means for my children. When my kids encounter a “mean girl”, I help them discover if it’s really a character issue as in the case with my childhood bully or simply someone who is socially awkward or shy. Above all, I have the opportunity to teach them that there are many people in the world who enrich our lives and I can help them to seek those kinds of people out. I can teach my girls (and boys) to surround themselves by the givers, and above all, to be givers themselves.