Helping Kids Cope with Big Emotions with guest Kim Feeney, LISW, RPT-S

Do your child’s temper tantrums test your limits? Do you struggle to stay calm when your kid is falling apart? Does every disagreement end in a screaming match? In this episode of Brainy Moms, Dr. Amy and Teri interview play therapist Kim Feeney, LISW, RPT-S.  Kim specializes in helping children and parents cope with big emotions. She gives listeners practical tips for helping kids manage their emotions while also keeping our own in check. And, she talks about some ways that we as parents can build stronger connections with our children through play. She also shares how play therapy can be a life-changing intervention for more challenging situations. 

Read the transcript and show notes for this episode:

Helping Kids Cope with Big Emotions
with guest
Kim Feeney, LISW, RPT-S


Dr. Amy Moore:

Hi and welcome to this episode of Brainy Moms. I’m Dr. Amy Moore here with my cohost, Teri Miller, coming to you from Colorado Springs, Colorado. Our guest today is Kim Feeney. Kim is a licensed independent social worker and registered play therapist supervisor. She owns Butterfly Beginnings Counseling in Davenport, Iowa, and has over 10 years of experience helping children and families lead healthier, emotional lives. Believing all behavior is purpose-driven, she works with parents and children to find alternative ways to meet social and behavioral needs. Kim says, “Let’s take your kids from tantrums to talking.”

Teri Miller:

That would be great. Let’s do that.

Kim Feeney:

Exactly what I hope to do today.

Teri Miller:

Good, I’m so glad you’re with us.

Kim Feeney:

Thank you. I’m very glad to be here.

Teri Miller:

Before we get into your work, I would like for you to tell the listeners a little bit about your story, how you got to where you are today, doing what you’re doing, and I also then, if you would tell us, tack on at the end of that, what’s the name Butterfly Beginnings, what’s that from? Tell us your story.

Kim Feeney:

All right, not a problem. I grew up in a very helping, professional family. My mom was a special education teacher and retired after 40 years. My dad worked with mentally and physically handicapped and challenged individuals and adults, so helping people was kind of in my blood, I was just kind of born into it, so I always knew that I wanted to do something along those lines. I toyed with, as growing up, being a teacher, then a pediatrician, and then when the blood and guts got to me I realized I couldn’t do that at a young age. I decided on being a therapist. As I went through my formative years, that was kind of in my mind, and then I had my own personal mental health challenges in middle school, you know the tween years where we all kind of struggle, and again, my therapist was so beneficial in helping me through that hard time and that struggle. The connection that we made, and just the insights that she helped me to see in my own life was eye opening.

Kim Feeney:

That’s when I kind of decided that I wanted to specialize in kids and teens and families, versus more of the adult side of things. Then I went on from there, college and got my training in play therapy and opened Butterfly Beginnings. The name, Butterflies have always been really special in my life. I’m a very faith-based person, and not that my counseling is really faith-based, I don’t push that on any of my clients or anything, but the butterfly has always been symbolic of the transformation and the journey and kind of a religious connotation, just for me specifically. That’s kind of what I want to lead my clients into, transforming and becoming new, not really new individuals, but realizing new things about themselves and things they didn’t recognize about themselves, and the family just going through this new journey together. That’s kind of where the name came from.

Dr. Amy Moore:

I love that.

Teri Miller:

Yeah.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Let’s talk a little bit about your specialty, play therapy. For our listeners who might not have heard of that before, or not understand what that is, talk a little bit about what play therapy is, who it’s for, and what kind of issues it can address.

Kim Feeney:

Absolutely. Kids don’t have the cognitive verbal abilities that we do as adults. We hear on and on the brain is not developed until age 25, or age 30, so the kids, their brain is still developing. We use what they do best, which is play, to help them express their feelings. In my playroom I’ve got dollhouses and puppets and sand and art and games and just a wide, Legos, a wide variety of expressive toys that the kids can go in and they can figure out what they like, what they don’t like, and I’ll target intervention specifically to them. When I’m building a rapport with a client, I may have them go into the dollhouse and just be like, “Show me what a day is like with your family,” and they’ll use the figures and you know, I get things through how they position the characters, and who is close to who, and who is spending time with who, and things like that. Whereas, again, they wouldn’t be able to tell me all those little nuances but as they play it out, I can kind of see it visually in how they’re expressing things.

Kim Feeney:

Or if they have a hard day at school I may say, “Okay let’s go to the puppets and play out, or give me a puppet show of what exactly happened with your friends,” and then I can intervene and take a puppet and have a helper character, and kind of change the story, or what could we do differently next time with the puppets. That’s just a couple examples of how we use the toys to help the kids express themselves. The other part of the play therapy though is not really all the toys and gadgets and do-dads, it’s about the relationship and creating that safe space for the client as well. I try to build that from day one by just allowing them to come in and explore. I allow them to ask me questions right off the bat, it’s not just a one-sided conversation, so they can get comfortable with me just like I want to get comfortable with them. It’s a mutual respect and understanding.

Kim Feeney:

Play therapy can address a wide variety of issues. Like I said, we do things from family stuff like divorce and grief and loss, school things, bullying, moving, changing friends, to the more traditional mental health issues like anxiety, depression, ADHD, so a wide variety of things can use play therapy. Trauma, unfortunately I do have some of those challenging, heartbreaking cases as well.

Dr. Amy Moore:

So what age group is play therapy best for?

Kim Feeney:

You can use play therapy throughout the life span, but ideally it targets, it’s developmentally appropriate for ages like 3-10.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Okay. Is that standard of care for children in terms of therapy?

Kim Feeney:

I definitely feel it is. If I have somebody that’s looking for a therapist and is a child client, I will definitely say, “Look for a registered play therapist,” or somebody that does play therapy, because again, that’s just how the kids brains work. They work better through the play than with talk therapy.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Is that research based?

Kim Feeney:

Yes it is. We have definitely many forms of play therapy that are evidence based.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Excellent.

Teri Miller:

Just to confirm that, or whatever, from a personal perspective, our little girl, our youngest is adopted. She’s been with us for five years now but when she first joined our family she had just turned four, and had gone through a lot of neglect and trauma, and when we look her to the doctor’s office right away, and we’re just looking at, “Okay what are the needs?” She had to be in physical therapy, speech therapy, and then as far as counseling and kind of trying to help her adjust to… She had some big fears, big anxieties about some really sad things. It was play therapy that we worked through and I’ll tell you the truth, at the beginning I was like, “This is so ridiculous. They’re playing dollies.” Then I learned more about it, I read more about it, and as things unfolded, I mean it helped her, it worked. She was able to work through fear of men. She had massive fear of any grown man and a deep voice. She was able to work through that. I don’t understand how, but it was amazing and in those months she was able to then not be afraid of the grocery store checker or whatever, that was a guy, and she worked through it.

Kim Feeney:

That’s just the magic of play.

Teri Miller:

It was amazing, yeah.

Dr. Amy Moore:

So do parents participate in the sessions as well, or is the play therapist working solely with the child?

Kim Feeney:

I try to individualize my treatment plans to the clients. If it is more of a parent child relationship, or an attachment thing, I will include the parents in the session. I definitely, no matter what I do if it’s individual sessions with the child or parent sessions, include the parents in some form. I always have a check in with parents at the beginning. I say, “What went well this week?” Because I always want to start off with the strengths and the positives. Then I’ll say, “Give me one thing that could have gone better or differently,” and they’ll let me know that. Then I’ll always check in again at the end, and teach them the skill or technique that we worked on this week, so then they can take it in the home. They see the kids 365 days a year. If I’m lucky it’s 52 weeks a year that I get to have contact with the kid, so the parent is really where the change happens. They need to know what’s going on in the session even if it’s just one on one with me and the kid for the majority of the time, because that is, the system is where the change is going to happen. I will consult also with teachers, or OTs, or pediatricians, or psychiatrists, because again, it’s a [systemed 00:09:40] approach and we all have a hand in how to make change in this child.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Absolutely.

Teri Miller:

That’s so good, that’s beautiful. It feels confirming for what we went through because I’m like, “Yep that’s how it was with us.” I wasn’t involved in the therapy but we always met at the beginning and at the end, just like you said. It’s very helpful, I think especially for small children and when she had communication problems, or if your kid has, let’s transition to the next question, emotion regulation problems. Let’s talk about tantrums. Yeah so going from tantrums to talking. That’s still a struggle in my house with my little girl. She’s still, I think just from so much of the wounding, she does, she struggles with fear, she wants to be in control of things, so being told no is very hard, not getting her way, even more so than a neuro typical child, it’s very difficult for her, and those, even if it’s sadness, fear, anxiety, worry, those turn into tantrums. Big emotions turn into tantrums. Talk to us about that, what we can do.

Kim Feeney:

Absolutely. The first step for the kid, or the family in general is just recognizing what emotion is going on, because a lot of things kind of look the same. Worry, excitement, anger, it all comes into that big, big explosive behaviors. I teach the parents to reflect the feelings to the child. “You’re angry, you’re worried,” even excitement, you know we can get overly excited and that can wind up causing havoc sometimes. Daniel Siegel says, “Name it to tame it,” in his books, so just naming and recognizing what’s going on can go so far. Then helping that child to identify when this happens again, and again, and again, so they recognize the patterns. “Okay when my stomach gets in knots I’m feeling anxious. When my chest gets tight I’m getting angry.” Then they can make those connections. It’s kind of like a puzzle they’re putting together of the connections with the body sensations to naming the emotion.

Kim Feeney:

Then I teach parents just have an emotion chart, because again kids don’t always have that verbal ability but if they see a picture of what’s going on, of an angry emoji, or a happy emoji, or a sad, and just a few times a day check in with the child so they can do that body scan and figure out, “What emotion am I experiencing and what’s going on with me?” Again, just so they can get used to that. It’s that repetition when we’re calm, because when they’re calm they can connect to the cortex which is where our problem solving and all our logic happens. Then hopefully when they’re dis-regulated, muscle memory and brain memory will take over and they can connect to that piece.

Teri Miller:

Your blog post, I dug into some of your… Oh not blog, I’m sorry, some of your podcast that are actually, they’re videos, it’s not just a-

Kim Feeney:

YouTube.

Teri Miller:

… YouTube video, yeah. YouTube video, listeners if you want to check that out, she’s talking about one right now, the art of reflecting feelings, that I went through. I just soaked it up. Oh my goodness, so helpful at the website Butterflybeginningscounseling.com, the art of reflecting feelings was super, super helpful and that’s what you’re talking about, is for us as parents to learn how to help our children understand what those big emotions are to then tame them, yeah?

Kim Feeney:

Absolutely, and I think it helps if parents can narrate themselves when they’re having big emotions. If mom has a jar that she can’t get open and she’s trying and she’s trying and she’s getting frustrated, if she says, if the kid is doing homework at the table and she just says, “I’m getting frustrated I can’t open this jar. I’m going to stop, take a few deep breaths, calm myself, and then I’m going to figure out how I can get this jar open, whether I need a new process, if I need to go find dad and see if he can open it,” but just narrating and showing the child, modeling for the child how we regulate ourselves in those little situations too.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Parents are frequently uncomfortable with those big emotions that their children are expressing, right? Especially if it’s happening in public. What do you say to parents on how to regulate their own response to those big emotions that their children are expressing? How can they be in that space with their child without exacerbating the emotion that their child is experiencing by not being able to regulate your own?

Kim Feeney:

Yeah. We call it one foot in and one foot out, because you have to have one foot in the big feelings with the child to be able to kind of co-regulate and help them understand what’s going on, and you have to have one foot out that is that calmer side of you. We have what we call mirror neurons, where kids will pick up on everything that’s going on around us, so if we escalate our emotions as adults, that is just going to, the kid is just going to continue to skyrocket, however if we remain calm, or as calm as possible…

Kim Feeney:

The first step in co-regulating a child is just to check in with yourself. What am I feeling right now? Can I take a couple quick deep breaths, or do some movement or rocking, or whatever that I need to regulate myself before I jump in with this with the kid. Then we can, again, I teach the parents to narrate what they’re doing. “I see you’re angry right now. Let’s sing a song, or let’s breathe or rock or let’s go get a drink of water.” There’s millions of different regulation techniques that we can do, but again, it’s that one foot in, one foot out. Being in it with the child but also being able to stay outside and look at it from a logical point of view.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Let’s talk about one of those most common scenarios that parents struggle to manage, and that’s the grocery store temper tantrum. Talk to us about what parents can do in those scenarios.

Kim Feeney:

For sure. Again like I said, take a deep breath, get on your child’s level. If they’re little and they’re walking next to you, kneel down, look them in the eye. If they’re in the cart, obviously you’re kind of eye level already, but get on their level and just talk to them. “You’re really angry right now or you’re upset that I won’t buy you the candy bar. You’re upset that we can’t get your special kind of cereal today. Let’s breathe,” and hopefully, again, as we do this they will pick up on it and co-regulate. Sometimes they won’t, sometimes you can say, “It’s okay to be angry but what is not okay is how you’re behaving right now.” Because we want to teach kids that all feelings are okay. It’s okay to have the wide range of emotions. It’s the behaviors that follow the feelings that we want to kind of adjust and make more socially appropriate.

Kim Feeney:

Again, identify the feeling, tell them it’s okay, and say, “Okay we want to relax. We want to calm down.” Try to co-regulate. Again if that doesn’t happen, we just kind of got to go with it and keep talking, remain calm yourself, get through the line and hopefully the child will then calm down when they’re removed from the situation.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Would your recommendation be to push through? Okay you’ve got grocery shopping to get done, are you going to finish grocery shopping even in the midst of the temper tantrum, or do you pick the child up and take them out?

Kim Feeney:

I would finish grocery shopping. The child needs to learn to be in the uncomfortable feeling. In my play sessions if a kid comes in and they’re angry or they’re sad or whatever, we’ll sit with that feeling. We’ll even have a tea party with it. We’ll draw the feeling, we’ll make it a shape or a color to make it some concrete-ness, and then like I said, we’ll have a tea party with it or we’ll play a game with anger or worry or sadness, and we’ll just kind of sit in it. What does that feel like, and what comes up in our body, and how that goes, because kids need to learn while their feelings are okay and they will pass.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Absolutely.

Teri Miller:

I’m thinking of Jaydaria  again, my youngest, my little girl. I’m course I’m soaking up everything you say like, “Oh my goodness I’m going to do this, I’m going to do this.” Yeah she’s had so much therapy, she’s had so much counseling. She’s with a therapist right now we really like, and yet I want our listeners to hear, I want moms to hear that this is not a quick fix process. You’re not going to have a kid that’s having tantrums and go, “Wow I listened to this podcast, now I’m doing one, two, three. Everything is better, a tantrum never happened again.” This is a long-term investment of learning for both of us, because I know for me, what you’re talking about, a big part of it was I have had to learn to calm down because I get like, “That is not okay,” I just want to strangle her. Even though I’m talking very, very calmly and, “We’re not going to behave that way,” I’m very calm but not really. My heart rate is up. Like you said those mirroring neurons, as a parent I think it’s not just about, “I need to control how the child is behaving.” I need to control how I am behaving. I need to recognize my big emotions and tame them.

Kim Feeney:

Exactly. We need to be able to sit with our uncomfortable emotions as well. If some of that, like in the grocery store, is going to be some of that embarrassment, or shame and just being able to be okay with that in the moment.

Teri Miller:

Do you have a practical tool? This is a random question. I would love to print something out for my home, for my daughter that’s got the faces, like you said the emojis, and the emotions. Do you have a tool or something that I could go on a website and print out a page that shows this face and this emotion?

Kim Feeney:

I do have a website that I recommend for parents. I can give you guys the link and you can link it in the show notes or wherever where they can print off, yeah, a sheet.

Teri Miller:

Perfect. Just rattle it off real quick for any listener that’s super auditory learner and can listen and grab it.

Kim Feeney:

Oh well my six ways to cope with big emotions, which has the link, is Butterflybeginningscounseling.com/coping.

Teri Miller:

Okay coping.

Kim Feeney:

Yes, coping.

Teri Miller:

Okay perfect. Yeah.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Let’s switch topics now. I come from an early childhood background so I completely understand the importance of play for child development. Talk a little bit about the importance of playing with your child, and how those special play times can strengthen the connection between you and your child.

Kim Feeney:

Absolutely. Taking the play therapy skills of just reflecting feelings, of what we call tracking which is just saying exactly what the child is doing, and then restating content, which is kind of paraphrasing what the child says. Teaching parents how to do that at home validates what the child is experiencing. It puts the parent in the child, but allows the child to lead the playtime so they get some control over what’s going on. Just getting the parents to take that step back and watching their child develop and grow and lead and just play and have fun with your child. We’re so, in a society, go, go, go, go, and scheduling this practice and this recital, or this test, studying for this test.

Kim Feeney:

It’s just taking that downtime and enjoying those moments with your child is so gratifying and fun. Kids don’t get that sometimes. Between work and school, and like I said extra-curricular activities, just enjoying those moments. Teaching parents that, I see the smile when they come in and they talk about the 20 minutes of playtime they had with their kid during that week, and what they learned. “I didn’t know my kid was so artistic or creative or building Legos.” The nuances they learn about their child that they didn’t know before is so rewarding for me to see.

Dr. Amy Moore:

What does that participation look like from the parents side? Should they be asking questions, should they direct the play? What would it look like?

Kim Feeney:

Yeah. You would not direct the play. You would just say, “This is our special play time.” I try to get parents within budgetary limits to have a set of toys that is just for special playtime. They’ll have a box, one of those Rubbermaid tubs or whatever that you can buy at Walmart or Target that is just their special playtime toys, and then set out a blanket that is the special playtime area, so again it’s all special and unique for just this time. Then the kids get to choose what they want to play. Parents follow along with the child’s lead. Try not to ask questions, but if you need to ask questions do so in a whisper-voice, like if you want to know, “What should the dad puppet say right now?” Just whisper, “What do you want me to say?” So they know it’s less of a direction, and more of, “I want to take my lead from you.”

Dr. Amy Moore:

Okay so what I’m hearing you say then is that kids should have their own kids and materials for self-directed play, like that they would be playing in their room by themselves on the floor, but that you are going to intentionally choose a set of toys, materials, puzzles, play things just for you and your child.

Kim Feeney:

Exactly.

Dr. Amy Moore:

That child doesn’t have access to that box on their own, that it comes out only for your special planned playtime.

Kim Feeney:

That’s exactly right.

Dr. Amy Moore:

That must make them feeling amazing to know-

Kim Feeney:

It’s the anticipation of getting to play with those special toys, and having mom or dad and just all their attention and focus is on the child. Put the devices away, tell dad that he’s watching the other kids and it’s just mom and the child.

Teri Miller:

That takes a lot of intentionality. I’m like, “This is a really, really good challenge for us moms.” I hope you’re listening. I am listening and thinking, “Ouch.” Yeah because I tend to think, “I don’t want to play Barbies.” I cannot endure 20 minutes of Barbies. I’m going to pull my hair out, but I’m thinking, “Okay what could I do intentionally?” I think Legos are cool and fun. Okay so what if I, and I know she loves Legos. What if I, for her next birthday or for Christmas, or just not, just special, not for holiday, I get her a special Lego set or two, maybe some special, oh air-dry clay. I love air-dry clay. I can do that with her. She loves air-dry clay too. I’m trying to brainstorm, so moms brainstorm what can you do that you can do with your child and you’re not going to tear your hair out to do that with them.

Kim Feeney:

Right, because you want to be able to enjoy the activity. You don’t want to be thinking in the background all the time, “I hate this. I wish this was over. When is 20 minutes up?” You want to be able to be present and in the moment with you’re child. Again, it doesn’t have to be brand new toys. You can do garage sales, or things your friends are getting rid of, anything works.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Absolutely. It reminds me, I have three sons who are outdoor adventure kind of kids, just like my husband, but I have some health problems that keep me from being able to be outside in the sun. I always kind of ached over missing that time, and I just didn’t have the physical ability to do those types of adventures with my kids, but they love board games and I love board games, and so I knew that that was the one way that we were going to be able to connect and spend time doing things together, was yes, they were going to go wear themselves out outside with one another and with my husband, but that I would be there to do boardgames with them inside, and it was just as special.

Kim Feeney:

That’s wonderful that you were able to find that special activity for you guys to connect.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Yeah.

Teri Miller:

So sweet.

Dr. Amy Moore:

I only share that because there’s always something. There is always something that you can find to do.

Kim Feeney:

Be creative and think outside the box.

Teri Miller:

That’s good. Yeah that’s really encouraging. Yeah I’m sitting here thinking, “Wait a minute. I haven’t failed so badly at this,” because one thing I do with my daughter is we do outside stuff. We’ll go just the two of us, we’ll go wildflower picking. We build things outside like we’ve done a big lean-to thing with the fallen branches. We make a fairy house. I mean she came up with it from these pieces of bark that were the land by our house, and it became this multiple day project of building this fairy house and putting flowers and decorations and moss on it and mushrooms. Okay so we can do this, yeah.

Kim Feeney:

That sounds wonderful.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Teri, you mentioned a blog post that Kim had written about the ACT method.

Teri Miller:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dr. Amy Moore:

Can you talk a little bit about that Kim?

Kim Feeney:

Yeah we want to do limit setting. Again, kind of along the same lines with reflecting the feeling, so that’s going to be your first step, acknowledge the feeling. You’re angry, you’re worried, you’re upset. Then we want to communicate our limit, thinking of an example. A child comes in and they throw their backpack on the floor because they’ve had a bad day, and you don’t want the backpack on the floor because someone could trip over it. Acknowledge, “I see you’re angry right now however we want the backpack picked up. On the floor is not okay.” Then we want to target acceptable alternatives is the T. “You can hang your backpack up in the closet. You can take it to your room, or you can put it by the kitchen table where you’re going to do your homework later.” Again, acknowledge the feeling, communicate the limit, and target acceptable alternatives, ones that you are okay with. Whenever we give choices we always want to make sure that it’s things that we are okay with ourselves.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Absolutely, right. When we just say, “No,” or, “Stop,” we paralyze kids, right? Okay they know what they can’t do, right, “Mom is saying no I can’t do this,” but if we don’t teach them acceptable alternatives and what they can do, then we’re going to constantly just walk around saying, “No,” and, “Stop,” all the time, right, because they’re never going to learn to make an acceptable choice.

Kim Feeney:

Absolutely. The more that we give them those acceptable alternatives, the more, again, they’re going to find those patterns and they’re going to naturally start doing it on their own. We can’t take away a behavior without providing something else for them to do, because I believe that all these behaviors are in-service to meet a need. The kid that threw the backpack down was just having a bad day and needed to get out some anger and wanted to drop their backpack off, so again, that’s the need they’re trying to meet. We want to, again, give them an acceptable way to meet that need.

Teri Miller:

I love, in your post also, how you talk about that so often what we typically do, Amy you just said this, we typically first say no, and then Kim you talked about it’s so important to first acknowledge their feelings. I was thinking about that A, affirm, acknowledge, appreciate their feeling. I was feeling like that A, what that A does is it creates relationship, it creates connection. Instead of our first response so often is this, boom, we’re butting heads, we’re saying no, and that’s communicating, “I don’t care about your feelings. I just want you to comply to what I want,” and so Kim your post is talking about acknowledge those feelings first. That’s so valuable, and it’s so not what we, I’m sorry, I’ll own it. It’s not what I typically do.

Kim Feeney:

Absolutely. Another famous Dan Siegel quote is, “Connection before correction,” so again we want to connect with the child and make sure that relationship is there, because then they’re going to be more willing to correct the behavior.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Right and I always tell parents that everything that comes out of our mouths to our child is either going to strengthen that connection with our child or weaken that connection with our child. If we can stop and say, “Okay if I tell them this, is that going to bring me closer to my child or is that going to tear down those connections?” I think it makes a big difference, like when you check your heart before you speak.

Kim Feeney:

Very much so.

Teri Miller:

I just want to, again, say I’m going to own it. It is so hard. I so often find myself, and my older kids have called me on it. I will walk into the house. I’ve been gone to an appointment or something, and I walk into the house and before I even say, “I love you,” or, “How was your day,” or anything, I was in and go, “You guys, who socks and crap is all over the floor in here?” I’m like, “People shoes go on the shoe shelf.” I mean it’s so mean, and that’s what I so often typically do. Ouch. Connection before correction. I need that tattoo.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Well and I think what you said Kim a few minutes ago was that whole one foot in and one foot out thinking, that you’re not denying your own feelings, right? You’re just saying, “I’m going to be in this space with my kid and try to understand what they’re feeling and thinking at the same time that I’m recognizing and acknowledging my own feelings and responses.” It’s not an either or decision, right, it’s a both and.

Kim Feeney:

Right. They’re both going on simultaneously. The thing with kids is, we’re so geared to look for the negative right now, and again in society in general, that’s kind of the first thing we see, but kids need five positive things to one negative thing they hear to kind of repair that relationship. If you think of, if you do come in and say, “Who’s socks and everything is all this? We need to get it picked up,” or, “I don’t like this,” we need five positives to correct that one negative.

Dr. Amy Moore:

And that’s easily done, right? Even if you’re instinct is to do the complaint first, you can immediately say, “Okay I’m going to cushion this blow with five positive things now.”

Kim Feeney:

Yeah, exactly. “How was your day? Thanks for doing your homework. I like your hair today.” Whatever it may be. It can be little things to big things, but yeah.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Because we’re human. We’re going to screw it up. We’re going to screw it up daily.

Teri Miller:

Hourly.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Right, so we have to show ourselves a little bit of grace in that moment and say, “Okay I shouldn’t have said that, let me walk that back,” or, “I said that so let me add something positive.”

Kim Feeney:

I call it modeling the courage to be imperfect. Just saying, “My bad. I’m sorry. I made a mistake,” and just again, showing kids that we are human and it’s okay.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Well I think that’s a really good point too, because we don’t want our children to think that perfection is possible, not on this side of heaven at least, right? If they can see that we own our imperfections and are still standing and still loved, then it’s okay for them to make mistakes too and not beat themselves up and feel unlovable.

Kim Feeney:

Absolutely.

Teri Miller:

Yeah. I’m taking so many notes. This is so great. Thank you.

Kim Feeney:

Of course.

Teri Miller:

So needed.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Yeah absolutely. We need to take a break and let Teri read a word from our sponsor, and when we come back we want to hear about the webinar you have for parents.

Teri Miller: (reading sponsor ad from LearningRx)

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LearningRx’ can help you identify which skills may be keeping your child from performing their best. In fact, we’ve worked with more than 100,000 children and adults who wanted to think and perform better. We’d like to help get your child on the path to a brighter and more confident future. Give us a call at 866-BRAIN-01, or visit 
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Dr. Amy Moore:

And we’re back talking to Kim Feeney about play therapy and managing big emotions in children. You have a webinar for parents called How to Support Your Child Through Anger, Sadness, and Worry. Talk to us about that and how parents can get involved.

Kim Feeney:

Of course. The webinar goes through the four steps to being what I like to call an emotion coach for your child, just coaching your child how to regulate those big emotions. The first step is what I was talking about earlier, just validating the feelings and reflecting them back, helping the child to identify. Then we go into again, how to cope with the emotions, problem solving ways to make it better, and then finally we go into empathy, because we want kids not just to recognize the emotions in themselves, but to be socially responsible and recognize and help kids, recognize the feelings in other people. I think that’s a big part, they go hand in hand. The webinar goes through the four steps. It has techniques and strategies that you could implement today in your home to go from tantrums to talking.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Is there a cost associated with the webinar?

Kim Feeney:

It is a minimal cost of $25. It’s just an hour long webinar you can watch in the comfort of your own home and you can find it on my website.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Which is, one more time?

Kim Feeney:

Butterflybeginningscounseling.com.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Great.

Teri Miller:

I went through and signed up for your email list to get information, and to go ahead and get that webinar and yeah, I really appreciate that, I mean I don’t want people to overwhelm you with questions, but it sounds like what you’re promoting is that you’re also, people can buy that webinar and that you also are making yourself available. You have a contact right there so that if a parent says, “Look I watched that webinar but I’m struggling with this specific thing with my kid.” You’re not saying you’re just going to give free counseling, but I appreciate that I’m going to go through that and that if I have a question or two, I can email you. I can contact you.

Kim Feeney:

Please do. I don’t want it to be like a, “I watched this and now I have all these questions and I’m not sure what to do with the information.” I want you to be able to apply it and use it in your home, and to help your family and to build up the emotion and regulation of the kids in the family. I want to support you in that, to walk with you in that journey.

Teri Miller:

So valuable, so practical. That’s what we need as moms. We need the practical help. It’s all just theory and listening to webinars and podcasts, you know, it’s just, it’s annoying, but you’re giving us practical, practical help. That’s so good.

Dr. Amy Moore:

I want to ask, if we have listeners who have heard you talk now about play therapy, and have heard you talk about big emotions, and they’re really struggling to know whether their child has a problem that needs to be addressed through therapy or if this is just an extreme side of normal that they’re seeing. How can they tell the difference? How do they know if they really should pursue play therapy for their child?

Kim Feeney:

It all comes back to the patterns. If it’s a one-off where your kid is getting angry, again that’s just a one-off, but if it’s consistently, or if there’s dis-regulation that’s constant, like the change in sleep, or change in appetite or withdrawing more or acting out more, then something might be wrong if it’s different from their normal routine, because kids are routine based. As much as they fight against structure and limits, that’s really what they’re asking for and what they need. If something goes outside of that, and it’s consistent and if it starts becoming the new norm, that’s when you may want to reach out for help, at least get an assessment. It definitely can’t hurt to have that first initial… I offer free 15 minute consultations, and I know a lot of my colleagues do, so just give a call, get on the phone, and just say, “Hey this is what’s going on. What do you think?”

Dr. Amy Moore:

How would they find a play therapist and what specific qualifications do parents need to look for?

Kim Feeney:

You can look for, the credential is a registered play therapist, or registered play therapist supervisor, and that’s through the Association for Play Therapy. Their website is A, the number 4, PT.org. If you go to their website there is a registry of all the play therapists in the international, so even if you’re not in the United States, it’s international. You can get on the website, find one in your area. If you do have issues finding it, feel free to email me. I’d be happy to walk you through the process.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Excellent. Is there anything that you haven’t gotten to say today that you’d like to leave our listeners with?

Kim Feeney:

I just want to leave it with I know parents are doing the best they can, that again, I come from a very strength-based perspective. You have all the love in the world. You want your children to do their best, and just sometimes parents need a little tweak and support for themselves. Again, we can’t do this all alone. Genetically we weren’t supposed to be in a bubble. We have all these systems, teachers and doctors and therapists, and lean into them for support. That’s what we’re here for.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Fantastic. This has been a great conversation with you today. We want to thank you Kim for taking time out of your busy therapy schedule to share these tips and insights with our listeners. If you want to learn more about Kim’s work, we will put her website link, which is Butterflybeginningscounseling.com, and her social media handles and a link to her webinar and to her resources that we talked about. We’ll put all of that in our show notes. Thank you so much for listening today. If you liked our show, we would love it if you would leave us a five star rating our review on Apple Podcasts. You can also watch us on YouTube, follow us on social media at The Brainy Moms. Look until next time, we know that you’re busy moms and we’re busy moms so we’re out.

Teri Miller:

See ya.

Kim Feeney:

Bye.

SHOW NOTES:
Kim’s website:
https://www.butterflybeginningscounseling.com/

Get your free copy of 
6 Ways Parents Can Help Children Cope with Big Emotions:  https://www.butterflybeginningscounseling.com/coping

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IG- @Butterflybegin
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