Feel Better Box: A Mobile Coping Kit for Kids of All Ages

Learning to handle big feelings is a journey that begins in childhood and continues into adulthood. As parents and teachers, we want to give kids as many tools as possible to support them in developing the skills and coping strategies they need to grow into resilient, well-adjusted adults. First, we want to get into the habit of talking about feelings, including helping children recognize when they’re experiencing a strong emotion, and then we can help them practice how to manage those feelings in ways that make them feel good.

Recently, we were inspired by a Missouri teacher who, during the pandemic, came up with a way to extend her classroom’s safe corner to her preschool students at home. Just like the first aid kit we carry around with us to handle physical cuts, bumps, and scrapes, Jenny Kist’s “Little Safe Places” gave kids a way to handle emotional strains while away from the classroom.  What a beautiful way to help children feel safe and cared for, when those big emotions start to arise.

Kist’s Little Safe Places were based on tools and techniques she had been practicing with her preschoolers in the classroom. So we thought we’d put together our own KITS Feel Better Boxes designed for elementary and middle school-aged children.

How to put together a KITS Feel Better Box:

Choose any small box that you have around the house that will fit inside a backpack or otherwise be easy to carry along on outings, while running errands, or on overnight adventures away from home. Then, equip your child’s Feel Better Box with soothing items or images that will help them feel better when they notice their feelings starting to take over. What you put in your Feel Better Box will be unique to your child.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • A family photo or picture of the child with a parent or other loved one
  • A photo of the child’s favorite pet or images of animals that lift their spirits
  • A small notebook to write or draw in (this can be a feelings journal, or just a calming activity)
  • A pencil, pen, crayons, or markers
  • Stickers
  • A small stuffed animal or doll
  • A piece of your child’s favorite old blanket or cherished item of clothing
  • Something that smells good to your child (scratch and sniff stickers, a cloth with calming essential oils, lavender pouch, etc.)
  • Images to guide breathing exercises, such as a flower and a candle, or a peacock feather (breathe in through your nose to smell the flower, breath out slowly through your mouth to blow out the candle or flutter the feather).

The KITS Feel Better Box can be modified for older kids too! Consider working with them to include:

  • An updated list of their 5 favorite happy songs
  • Uplifting lyrics or quotes from their favorite book
  • An image of someone they look up to
  • An item or image that reminds them of something they’re working toward
  • A soothing activity (knitting, crochet, beadwork, etc.)

Putting together your Feel Better Box with your child is a great opportunity to talk about recognizing feelings and noticing big feelings before they get the better of you.

Consider pre-teaching how to use the box before your child gets to put it into practice. You might say something like, “This is a really cool box we’ve put together, Carter! Let’s talk about how to use it. We’ve been working on ways to help you come back to calm when you’re having a hard time. Now you have a kit to help you do that. So, when you notice that you’re starting to feel upset (sad/angry/overwhelmed), you can take out your Feel Better Box and choose what you’d like to help you feel better. I’m looking forward to hearing about how it goes!”. Remember to encourage your child when you notice them using the Feel Better Box or they tell you about how they used it or another strategy to handle their big feeling in helpful ways.

Have fun, get creative, and keep talking about feelings!

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