Kristina Marcelli Sargent is a mental health therapist who works with children in both outpatient and community based settings. After competing an art degree, Kristina went onto get her MSW and now combines her creative talents with her passion for mental health through her beautifully illustrated books aimed at enhancing socio-emotional development.
Teaching Mindfulness to Children
One of Kristina’s recent passions has been to teach young children mindfulness as a way for children to have some inner peace and inner safety despite their outer life circumstances. Mindfulness, put simply, is awareness in the present moment while noticing thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, feelings, and the surrounding environment in the moment instead of getting caught up in the thoughts and worries of past and future.
Although many people are familiar with this being very helpful for adults, this is also an excellent skill for children to learn too. Awareness is the foundation to all life experiences and skills. When children increase their awareness in the present moment, they can increase attentive skills, better regulate their feelings, make safe choices, and notice and attend others’ feelings. When children notice others’ feelings, beautiful things like empathy, kindness, compassion, forgiveness, and appropriate assertiveness skills can begin to grow.
Ursula Unwinds Her Anger
“Ursula Unwinds Her Anger” is a story about a dragon who doesn’t feel like she quite fits in with the dolphins she lives with but discovers she has a special talent. She changes colors with her feelings and uses this skill to teach others about feelings. The book teaches children mindfulness and relaxation skills such as deep breathing and noticing feelings while also letting them go. It is intended to help children discover inner peace and self acceptance and thus act in peaceful ways.
One of the most important things about dealing with anger is realizing it’s okay to be angry and there are safe ways to express it. In this story, the idea of using visualization and relaxation to “breathe” anger out is introduced as a relaxation technique for angry feelings. This book is accessible for children ages 3-10 and the adults in their lives who care about them. It introduces a fun way to think about feelings using color and lends itself to endless play and art activities to accompany the story.
Accompanying Activities: Kristina created a number of engaging activities to accompany the book that add more depth to the reading experience and reinforce the book’s message. Follow the links below to view instructions and download printables for activities designed to compliment the story.
Unwind Your Anger Printable Activity: This printable Ursula the dragon includes fire for children to write or draw what makes them angry that they would like to breathe out and let go of in their own lives. Children identify their own feelings along with anger triggers and end the activity with a deep breathing exercise.
Feelings Colors Worksheet: After reading the book, see if the child remembers the colors Ursula would turn with her different feelings in the story. Then have the child draw herself in the spaces above Ursula and identify which color she would turn if she turned colors with her feelings too!
Printable Feelings Cube: Color, cut, and tape to make your own feelings cube! Then take turns rolling the cube and either acting out the feeling (having the other person guess) or telling a time you felt that way! Another way to play is to tell okay things to do with the feeling that was rolled. For example, “it’s okay to be angry. When I’m angry, I like to take a quiet break.”
Kristina’s first book, Buttons the Brave Blue Kitten, is a story designed to help children (aged ~3-8) develop empathy, the ability to see how someone else is feeling from the other’s perspective.
The Creative Social Worker is a child and adolescent mental health therapist with special interests in trauma, play therapy and school social work. Her blog is dedicated to sharing interventions, resources, and activities with mental health professionals, as well as raising awareness about the social work field and assisting prospective MSW students with graduate school applications.