Talking about feelings, opening up, and being vulnerable is difficult under the best of circumstances — even with people we know and trust. So, providing ways to do this that are less threatening by being less personal can be immensely valuable when communicating with your child. One way to do this is by using emojis and/or emoticons.
(This activity requires two small pawns (such as those found in a board game), paper, pencil, and coloring supplies. Computer, printer, and scissors are optional.)
Begin the activity by sitting down with your child and drawing various different emojis together. Be intentional to include as many different types as possible, spanning the spectrum of emotions from happy and excited to fearful and sad. (If neither you or your child enjoy drawing, then sit down at the computer and print some out. Your child can then color and cut them out.)
After an ample amount of emojis are collected, spread them out in a line. Then, take turns pointing to one and describing what the emoji means or communicates until each one has been identified and described in words your child is able to understand. Take a moment, too, to point out that all of these emojis exist because every person experiences all of these feelings and emotions. While some of them may not feel good, all of them are completely normal and natural.
Next, let your child choose a pawn and you take the other. Explain that you’re going to play a game called “Truth and Care.” To play, you’ll take turns sharing a situation or task aloud. Then, you’ll both put your pawn on the emoji that best describes how that specific circumstance makes you feel. As you play, point out when you land on the same emoji and explain that you understand why they may feel that way because you feel the same way, too. Doing so will help demonstrate empathy toward your child in a very real, tangible way and help establish you as someone they can trust.
Some example situations to share aloud include having to talk in front of a group, having to take a test at school, doing chores, and eating a favorite meal. Start small and familiar, allowing your child to lead the direction of the game.
End the activity by reminding your child that no matter what they feel, they are never alone or “wrong.” Their feelings are okay no matter what they are and so are they. Share, too, that God does not want them to struggle, hurt, or worry alone. That is why He has placed people in their life who care about them — including YOU. Explain that you are always available for your child to talk to whenever they need to about anything they’d like. And that doing so will often help them feel better. Our burdens become much lighter when we let others help us carry them — and that starts with simply sharing them with our words.
After completing this activity, read through the following verse and prayer with your child.
Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.
Galatians 6:2 (NLT)
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for giving us a rainbow of emotions to feel and experience. But most of all, thank You for not leaving us to struggle with them alone. Help us to share our burdens and worries with You.
In Jesus’ name, amen.