Te Tiaki Kare-ā-roto | Managing Emotions

If you have FASD, understanding your feelings and emotions is vital to good communication, but they can be hard to get your head around. You may first need some concrete methods to help identify WHAT you're feeling.

In order to be able to react appropriately to any emotion, you must first have some way to recognise exactly what you are feeling. That feeling can then be named and 'rules' for appropriate reaction to that feeling can be made.

  • If you have a meltdown, think about what you're feeling; for example, a fast-beating heart, sweaty hands, hot face. Attach the physical feelings to the meltdown so you can begin to identify what feelings are connected to certain behaviours.
  • Create a 'feelings' dictionary, using line-drawings of complete stick people, rather than just facial expressions for those most common feelings you are likely to experience. A complete body can show more than just a face and is much to associate with what you are feeling. Have one emotion per page.
  • Always name emotions very clearly. Get help from a family member or friend if you need it! With teens and adults, name the emotion first and then follow with the words your friends might use (say 'angry' or 'pissed off').
  • To clarify your emotions, try using an outline drawing of a person, make copies of it and keep them handy. Decide on some simple colour codes e.g. red for anger, blue for sad, yellow for happy, and gray for blank. Colour the outline in with the colour of your feelings – this can give you a quick and immediate idea of the state of your emotional health (e.g., red in the head and the hands is a good indicator of being ready to lose it; gray in the head and on the body is a good indication of being shut down). This might help, especially when you are not able to describe your feelings.

Once the feeling is identified, have some simple plans to express it the right way. For instance:

  • If you feel like you're about to have a meltdown, use 'calm down' techniques – take yourself away and do some breathing, maybe lie down or go for a walk
  • If your parent or caregiver is annoyed – stand still, look at them and listen 
  • Tired – lie down and rest
  • Frustrated – have a list of physical activities you can do and choose one
  • Angry – express it physically in an acceptable and safe manner – punch a cushion or rip up some newspaper!