Why we love Sliding Emotions

BIG emotions such as feeling anxious or worrying, frustration and anger are normal responses to challenging situations or times. While they can feel yuck, these emotions can help us stay safe and get things done, but sometimes they can get in the way. This activity is a fun way to explain how emotions 'work' in our bodies and a strategy to manage them more easily.

What to do

Grab some felt pens and paper. And if you're lucky enough to have a slide on your lawn, that'll be useful too! Or better still, head to the playground!

Copy the playground slide from this worksheet. Talk about how out emotions work like a slide, they go up, and come down. You could even talk about this in terms of our breath: an emotion comes in (take a deep breath in), and then goes out (breathe out). In fact, calming our breath, just like that, is one way to help come ‘down’ from an emotion.

Managing our emotions is also like coming down a slide because it’s about choosing to ‘let go’. All emotions (e.g. worry, happiness, sadness, excitement) follow this pattern. Sometimes we spend a long time at the top not wanting to come down (hehe!), or at number 4 on the ladder, but eventually we do choose to 'let go' and come down the slide. This is pretty normal.

You might give this example:

“So here I am going about my day, down at the bottom of the slide, feeling calm; colour this emotion, green/kākāriki.”

  • Circle the “1” with green
  • Write the heading: Calm
  • Add the sentence “Going about my day.”

Talk about how you might know you're feeling calm? What are some clues? Relaxed body, no real facial expression, feel light and easy.

“And I just need to put my lunchbox away and Kirsty, who’s in a hurry pushes me. I’m okay, but I’m a bit sad/surprised. So I’ve moved to ‘2’ and I’m blue (kahurangi).

  • Circle the “2” with blue
  • Write the heading: Sad / surprised.
  • Add the sentence “Kirsty pushed me.”

Chat about how you might know you're feeling surprised or sad? You may have given Kirsty a surprised or dirty look, you might feel a bit deflated or on edge, maybe your shoulders slumped or you felt your facial expression change.

“So, I say “hey” to Kirsty and she laughs and runs off. Now I’m annoyed! What kind of friend does that?! Where have I gone to? I’ve jumped to #4 and I’m yellow/kōwhai.

  • Circle the “4” with yellow
  • Write the heading: Annoyed.
  • Add the sentence “Kirsty ran off.”

Talk about why Kirsty may be acting like that?

  • You may choose to escalate the emotions saying things like, “she doesn’t like or care about me,” carry on escalating the story to 5, rage and red (whero).
  • Or you may de-escalate the emotions saying things like: “Maybe it was an accident, or she was in a hurry and excited and didn’t mean to upset me,” then de-escalate by jumping off the slide (letting go) and heading back to green (kākāriki).

Whichever option you choose, challenge this too by applying the opposite. This shows that escalation and de-escalation often happens based on how we think about what happened. And this is something we can control! (Although it’s not always easy!) Remember too that none of these emotions are ‘bad’ – they’re just emotions and we all feel them at some points – and we shouldn’t avoid them. The thing to be careful about is how our emotions can affect our behaviour.

Talk about Kirsty pushing us and us becoming really angry, how might this affect our behaviour?

  • We might be rude or mean to other people – this may even include our family when we get home
  • We might break something purposefully
  • We might not really think (or care) about consequences.

But we don’t stay like this forever – thank goodness!

Action it out

If you've got a slide in the backyard or nearby playground, head there. And if not, you may be able to create something else - outside steps or stairs, or depending on your family rules you may set up from the floor to a mat to a cushion to a chair...

We all have times when we've behaved in ways we're a bit embarrassed about now and you'll need to take the lead here! Even something we might think is a great emotion, like excitement can make us behave in ways we can't quite believe afterwards! It’s not always anger. It could also be fear or worry.

Give an example of your own, or continue to make them up. Your child may choose to offer one of their own experiences, which is incredibly brave, so keep it fun and avoid correcting them or being 'surprised by what they tell you!' Even if you REALLY want to!

Use the expression 'AND LET GO' to come down the slide or stairs letting go of the big emotions and working their way back to being calm. It'll give you a way to talk about this again and make it fun!

Be sure to include in this play things that may help us manage the emotion, and come down the slide. We recommend:

  • tummy breathing, walking away and finding a quiet spot, talking to someone, thinking positive thoughts, a cuddle or pat on the back, drinking water, using positive self talk.

Ways to use Sliding Emotions everyday

  • Keep talking about it as a strategy and revisiting it in a light and fun way.
  • Notice when things are beginning to escalate and rush to the slide or steps to play it out. Break the mood and give them real life examples of when technique can work.
  • Pair it with Energy Rollercoaster to get a sense of moving up and down from emotions and energy levels.