At Home with God - Emotions

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Emotions are a normal part of life. Everyone has them but we are not always good at talking about them or understanding them. Our unprocessed emotions can heavily influence our actions in life. This is true for children and adults alike.

Providing a safe environment at home, where emotions can be recognized and named, is a positive relational experience that illustrates how God desires to engage with us. Psalm 139 assures us: God knows everything about us, including our deepest emotions. He welcomes emotional conversations and desires that we understand the emotional motivations of our hearts.

Talking regularly at home about our emotions is a healthy relational and spiritual practice. If you are not in the habit of discussing your emotions as a family, this is a good time to start.

During this season of COVID-19 stress is pushing our emotions to the surface in ways we may not normally experience. We have less distance from our family members which can also trigger emotional reactions and outbursts.

Because our emotions are so present, we have an opportunity to recognize and name them with one another. This can be a great stress reliever as well as a bonding experience. When we can talk openly about our emotions, without judgement, we create safety in our home environment.

We can't always be in control of what happens to us physically or outside in the world but we can provide a safe haven at home to process our emotions, to be seen and comforted by God and one another.

Here are some ideas to foster conversations at home about feelings:

  1. Choose a time during the day to have a regular emotional check-in. A meal when everyone is together works great. Get out the emotion cards (see the Toolbox section) and give every family member a chance to say how they are feeling. 
  2. When you are feeling stressed, get out the emotion cards and let your family see you using them. This normalizes the process for children and other adults.
  3. If your children are old enough, invite them to use the cards on their own, or with you when you sense their emotions may be on the rise. 
  4. Be aware that when emotions are very intense both children and adults may need to calm down a bit before being able to talk about their feelings. Be ready to listen when the time is right.
  5. Sharing our emotions requires that others are good listeners. Good listeners don't interrupt, assume, or judge the feelings that someone shares. It will take time to grow as listeners as well as grow as sharers of our feelings.

The first tool we are adding to our toolbox are Emotion Cards. Emotion cards are physical representations of common emotions (angry, sad, happy, scared, etc.) This tool helps foster emotional conversation.

There are lots of variations on this project. You can use pictures of faces expressing emotion, emojis, and other images that can help us visualize and resonate with our feelings. (A quick internet search will give you lots of other ideas.)

Place your emotion cards in your tool box, and add faces or other emotional tools over time. We have provided links below for a variety of sources, as well as downloadable templates you can print to make cards at home. Feel free to add other sources by posting to our Facebook page. We'll add them to our list!

Quick tip: Children and even many adults will project their feeling onto something in their world or someone around them. Your child may not be able to express their sadness, fear or anger, but they may be able to tell you how their stuffed bear is feeling.

O Lord, you have examined my heart
    and know everything about me.
You know when I sit down or stand up.
    You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. Psalm 139:1-2 (NLT)

How might you recognize God in your family conversations about emotions? Here are some suggestions.

  1. Begin your family discussion about emotions with a short prayer thanking God for knowing everything about your family members, including your emotions. Mention each family member by name in your prayer.
  2. After each family member names their feelings, affirm your love for them and God's love for them. Express that God is happy to hear how they are feeling.
  3. If a family member is having a difficult time naming their feelings, just be present with them in the unknown. Quietly affirm that God knows what they feel and will help them understand when the time is right.
  4. Light a candle that represents the Holy Spirit during your family sharing. This will help everyone have a visual reminder of God's presence with you.

Sources for Your Toolbox

Here are some resources for obtaining or creating emotion cards/images to use as a family: 

Amazon has several versions of feeling cards appropriate for many age groups. They also have feeling games that could be a fun way to jump start a regular sharing of feelings.

If you want to make your own feelings cards here is a set of free printable cards you can use. 

The organization Cru has a set of card images that help to spark emotional conversation. These might be good for teens and adults.