by Gabrielle Djangoly
Ways in which we can encourage children to talk about and share their emotions, how this inspired Sign Here and where the inspiration came from.
Aside from my tax return there are very few forms in adulthood that have (reliably) evoked any modicum of emotion. However, as a child, I was probably at my happiest running my Petite Post Office: ticking boxes, stamping and signing various forms with authoritative gusto. Without doubt, Sign Here has, at its root, my childhood love for everything official but it also serves as a structured space for children to dream something up, share a secret and express their feelings in a seriously fun way.
Sign Here began with a Dream Request Form, drafted on a train to Lewisham to see a friend and her young daughter. I had hoped it would make an entertaining (and appropriately calm) bedtime activity; unfortunately I arrived too late to test it out. However, I recognised some charm in a pseudo official form that combined a child’s imagination, subconscious and an invented ministry, The Ministry of Dreams. For all its absurdity it was apparent that the form offered a positive intervention before the anxiety of ‘lights out’.
Sign Here includes four forms issued by the ‘United States of Emotions’ – Acknowledgment of Angry, Celebration of Happy, Declaration of Sad and Report of Fear. These forms allow a child to express their feelings in a deliberate way, encouraging them to consider how an emotion manifests itself mentally and physically. It is important to me that these forms help to normalise all the emotions of childhood, making them as routine as birthdays and tooth loss. Each emotion form has a scale where a child can mark the potency of their mood, and proposes ideas that might make them feel better – whether that’s a ‘receiving a hug’ or ‘stomping around’. The Celebration of Happy has a measuring ‘smile rule’ while the Declaration of Sad has a body map so a child can mark where they feel their sadness most. I’m convinced locating sadness is a rather useful exercise, whether it’s sat like a big dog on one’s chest or a burning ember in one’s throat.
It is not just the emotion forms that tap into a child’s feelings. Forms to say ‘I’m sorry’, ‘thank you’, ‘you’re my best friend’, ‘I lost it’ allow a child to share what they are grateful for, happy or worried about. There will never be too many ways for a child to express their feelings. Sign Here offers one more to the pot, a great starting point for a conversation with a parent or loved one and a good place to master a new word or two – I was keen to include some really long ones.
This is a guest post by Gabrielle Djangoly and the views expressed do not necessarily represent those of the FCBG. Sign Here is published by Prestel Publishing.