Life can be full of ups and downs. That’s true for all of us. But it’s especially true for kids who struggle with dysregulation, difficulties at home or school, or just teenagers in general!
My colleague and I were trying to think of ways to illustrate this point to our kids – that our feelings go up and down, sometimes we are happy, sometimes we are sad. But the important thing is that we don’t have to stay on one feeling forever. Then we thought of a rollercoaster. What better to demonstrate the idea of feelings going up and down?
We created a simple sheet (download here, or you could make your own and be as creative as you want!) It has four points on the rollercoaster: “Last night I felt…,” “This morning before school I felt…,” “At school I felt…” and “Right now I feel…”
We ask kids to draw the rollercoaster of their day. How did they feel at those different times? Were they happy (up) or sad (down)? We allow the kids plenty of time to decorate their rollercoaster and make their artwork unique. They really have to recollect their feelings at different times, which is a great exercise for kids.
At the end of every activity, we process what we felt. Here are the questions we ask:
1. What did you notice about the way you felt during the day?
2. What did you learn about yourself?
3. How would you like your rollercoaster to look?
4. How do you impact the way your rollercoaster looks?
5. What are some things you might do differently?
This is a great tool because it gives the kids a chance to process their feelings, and gives us some insight into what is going on with a kid. Sometimes their rollercoasters are simple, they just go up throughout the day, or they stay about the same. Sometimes they do big flips and turns, ups and downs. Then you can see that that particular kid might have a lot of big feelings they could talk through. I believe that art is one of the best ways to get a kid’s voice heard. Sometimes they won’t want to use words to tell you about their emotions, but they’ll express it on paper. At the very least, it’s worth a shot to see if you can glean any insight from the kids, and you’re helping them see that the feelings they’re having won’t last forever. As we know, life is full of ups and downs.
Check out this video explaining this strategy.