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Expressing One’s Feelings

It is very important that the people we work with freely express their feelings. Sometimes this is not easy to do. That is why, we will further present several games by aid of which, children may non-verbally express their feelings. It is important to know that for the good performance of the games, a warm, casual atmosphere is necessary so that the children should be comfortable. Bagdy and Telkes (1995) describe nine games by which the children may non-verbally express their feelings.

These games are:

  • Game of Motion;
  • Game of Statues;
  • Time Machine;
  • Silent Cry;
  • Hat Fear;
  • Synchronicity;
  • Communication with one’s back turned around;
  • I am a shoe;
  • Language of meaningless words.

Of all these games we have adapted a few that we’ll further describe thinking they may be help to you when you work with children.

The first game is “Game of Motion”. This is relatively simple. The social worker enumerates several feelings among which the children pick some at their own choice. Such feelings may be: happiness, hatred, anger, joy, surprise, fear, loss etc. These feelings must be presented in two ways: the first by active motion, through gestures, and the second by making a statue.

The child may choose the feeling he / she wants to embody, and the others must guess what the feeling presented by their mate was.

It is important that the social worker should name the feelings that the children have lived in a prior experience as, by this game, the children will be able to understand the feeling in question (adapted after: Bagdy, E., Telkes, J., 1995, p. 236-237

Another game is “Time Machine”. The social worker asks the children that each and every of them should think of how he / she was one year, two or three years ago and try to non-verbally present himself / herself at that time, try to walk, and behave at he / she did back then. After each child has made his / her presentation, the social worker says it is time that the time machine should go one, two or five years in the future and then the worker asks the children to present themselves in that future (adapted after Bagdy, E., Telkes, J. 1995, p. 237-238)

In the game “Silent Cry”, a child is asked to cry out without making any sound at all, just by gestures, mimic. The others are asked to define what kind of a cry that was: help, joy, anger etc. In case the children do not guess the cry, the crying child is asked to cry out loud. After finding out the type of the cry, another child is chosen to present another type of crying (adapted after: Bagdy, E., Telkes, J., 1995, p. 238).

In the game “ With your back turned”, the children stand back to back. They slowly get closer to each other, then one draws so close that his / her partner should feel what he / she does; we ask the second child to try and copy the movements of the first (adapted after Bagdy, E., Telkes, J., 1995, p. 239).

The feelings accompany and are part of the content of the child’s communication, both before, during and after solving the problem. Thus, we can identify the following among the negative feelings before and during the manifestation of the problem:




a feeling of isolation


the feeling of being threatened

the feeling of not being wanted, loved, accepted etc.



After solving the problem, positive feeling may appear such as:





the feeling of being understood by the other(s)

the feeling of being accepted by the other(s)

the feeling of being respected

the feeling of being loved

the feeling of being taken into account

It is very important the these feelings that accompany the interactions between children and the assisting persons should be acknowledged; the social workers must encourage the children to identify themselves and control their negative feelings and impulses, such as fury, and, last but not least, help them understand the consequences and responsibilities that derive from each manner of solving conflicts.

SELF-KNOWING QUESTIONNAIRE recommended to social workers

Please fill in the following questionnaire that will contribute to your becoming aware of your attitudes towards the children you work with.

Some of my personal life experiences are similar the those of the children in the center I work in namely:

Certain experiences that the children in the center I work in have gone through are different from mine, that is why it is hard for me to understand them, namely:

The events that I have personally lived and that I would like to share with the children I work with are the following:

The events that I have personally lived and that I don’t feel able to share with the children are:

(The answer to this question is not subject to group discussion)

Exercise concerning the professionals’ prejudices and their influence on communication

The world is made up of „us” and „them”. If we look at things from our point of view it is certain that

we are right, they are not.

we are good, they are not.

we are beautiful, they are ugly.

Consequently, the groups often have prejudices concerning the other groups, with more or less serious consequences. Some groups may be persecuted or deemed inferior from a moral point of view, sub-human, retarded, ignorant of the true faith.

Can you give examples concerning the way prejudices affect the work within your institution?

Less blunt, still a prejudice is the case when some one says: “I wouldn’t allow my sister to marry an Afro-American” or “I get along with gypsies, still they are …”

What is objective or subjective in the following statements?

The Americans are intelligent.

Latin American is lazy. Objective - Subjective

Women are emotional.

Gypsies are …

What I say about a group actually includes my feelings towards that group.

Our mind will select the information about the group members that is compatible with our own opinions.

Prejudice acts as a prophecy. Our mind will have a „place” for the members of a category and will try hard to keep them there.

That is why social workers may assist children to solve their conflicts helping them to develop social skills and, within this framework, communicational skills:

Active listening is the first prerequisite for better communication that, in its turn, is the prerequisite and the way to solve a conflict. It supposes:

hearing what you are said;

paying attention to what you are said to understand the message correctly and completely;

provide feedback to the one you listen to.

Exercise: The children stand back to back. One of them is shown a drawing. He / she must explain to his / her colleague what he / she sees, the describing process lasts until the second child understands what the drawing represents and until he / she describes it.

The object of the exercise:

developing the trust in communication;

developing verbal communication abilities;

learning the steps that form the skill of active listening.

2. Communication Skills

Assertive Communication

It is the capacity to say calmly and firmly what one thinks, feels, wants, that is the clear assertion of what one wishes to happen, without claiming that it has to happen at all costs, respecting the others’ opinions as well.

Educating one’s assertiveness is a fundamental prerequisite for the promotion of a non-violent solution for the conflict situation which the parties are involved in. The two aspects of communications are aimed at in this case as well: non-verbal and verbal.

Exercise: for practicing the students’ non-verbal communication skills (Priestley si McGuire, 1993, pg. 106). The children are divided into small groups. Within each sub-group, each member thinks of a number of emotions that may be expressed without words, but by countenance, gestures, poise, tone of voice. Then, on a piece of paper, he / she will write the name of each of them; then, the paper indicating the name of the emotion will be put down on the floor in middle of the group. Examples of such states could be: hatred, fear, love, joy, surprise, curiosity, jealousy, envy etc. Each of the group members will pick up a piece of paper, read what it says without telling the others and then will mime the emotion using any means of non-verbal communication. The other group members must guess what he / she mimed / what has been « said ». If they don’t guess, they will be told verbally; the next person repeats the process

The goal of this exercise is to contribute to the formation / practice of two sorts of skills:

expressing one’s feeling independently of the verbal content of the interaction and

accurately perceiving and identifying these signs within the other’s wordless speech.

Exercises may also be used for the formation / practice of other assertive non-verbal communication elements, such as poise, it being an important clue of the other’s intention and conduct.

Exercise. The children are asked to portray intentions, non-aggressive attitudes by the aid of their poise.

The goal of the exercise is to understand the role of the poise in assertive communication.

Visual contact means catching the other’s eye, non-aggressively sustaining communication by aid of visual contact. It has an essential role in the promotion of the trust between two people that are interacting and communicating. Thus, children must know that when we make a statement, refuse or request a certain thing we must look the other in the eyes.


The children are group two by two and asked to participate in a role-playing game where one asks the other for something – for instance not the move the desk – a) by looking in his / her eyes. The role-playing game is analyzed from the perspective of each participant and then the game is resumed b) this time, the indication is that the request should be done without the two participants’ eye contact. The role-playing game is analyzed this time as well. The consequences of the two types of communication are compared in relation to the dispute / conflict state.

Tone of voice: within assertive communication, the voice must be sufficiently strong but not aggressive, firm but not inflexible so that what is being said should indicate self-possession, determination.

Gestures: are very eloquent for the type of communication, assertive or, on the contrary, aggressive. Thus, some appropriate gestures that accompany certain statements grant them more power. At the same time, the gestures may give additional nuances and accents to an argumentation that is always important in an attempt to solve a conflict.


The children are asked to imagine a realistic scenario where the gesture they should be the one that helps them to firmly, non-aggressively express their point of view. For instance. The refusal to play truant or smoke etc.

3. Educating Verbal Skills

In their work, social workers may assist children to form and / or develop their natural gift of verbal communication skills. Thus, besides active listening, other three verbal interpersonal skills prove to have a clear decisive potential.

We are referring tot he following skills:

a)      the skill of making a request in a constructive, non-conflict manner;

b)      the skill to express positive feelings;

c)      the skill to express negative skills.

To train students to form the said skills, social workers will use spatial development methods and techniques / individual and group behavior therapies.

These methods use a learning pattern and use the theories of learning the social responses and self-efficiency. The social worker will play the role of an educator in this case; it is important that he / she underlines to the assisted the fact that the formation / change of the communication manner does not happen overnight, it takes time, patience and repeated practical exercise. Techniques will be used such as repetition, feedback, direction and modeling; however, he / she will always start every time by presenting the students the steps that lead to the formation of each skill. (I.R.H. Falloon, M. Laporta G. Fadden, V. Graham-Hole; 1992)

The children’ attention will be simultaneously guided to the fact that each interpersonal verbal communication skill is accompanied by a series of non-verbal communication elements that add to the algorithm that leads to creating the skill in question.


The skill to express positive agreeable feelings:

using the technique of modeling, the social worker addresses the group of students as follows:

„I want to give you an example that should result in steps that we have to take when speaking about our agreeable feelings:

Mihai, I was glad to see that you succeeded to finish your homework in due time today so you could be punctual at our meeting.”

The social worker asks the students: „what steps did I take? How did I do it?”

The students’ words will render visible the following elements (steps) that form the communication skill:

you look at the person and speak to him/her calmly;

you tell him/her exactly what he / she did that you liked;

you say how he / she made you feel.

The modeling will be followed by role-playing games and repetitions with feedback whenever necessary.

After each time the students practice the skill, the analysis of the effects is done that the use of the skill has on each party involved in the communication interaction. Decisive effects will be focused on.

The same procedure is followed in the case of training the other three interpersonal communication skills as well. The steps and the construction thereof are the following:

You look at the person. You have a relaxed poise, preferably sitting. You speak calmly and firmly. You maintain your countenance appropriate to the unpleasant emotion – you avoid smiling if you feel unhappy, anxiety or fury.

You tell the other person exactly what triggered the unpleasant feeling.

Tell the person how you felt.

Provide a suggestion about how this negative feeling can be solved, either by making a positive request to the person in order to do something to help you, or by suggesting a decisive discussion.

Example: „I feel sad when you tell the other mates not to play with me. I wish you stopped interfering or we discussed how I could play along too.”


Social workers should assist the students so that they should always include the last step, the decisive one. Thus, they will understand, on the one hand, that the other person’s feelings are his / her own responsibility, but that there are triggering factors, and the first step to solve these disagreeable feelings – which many conflicts are related to – is to admit that they may be controlled by his / her own actions, that also include the ones by which he / she requests the others’ help or advice.

The skill to make positive requests

When we are dissatisfied with some other person’s behavior, we wish that he / she would change. The ability to positively / constructively request another person to make a change as to his / her behavior is a very useful social inter-personal skill the more settling of a conflict or overcoming a disagreement is desired.

Using the already described procedure and techniques, the social workers will assist the students to develop this interpersonal social skill:

You look at the person you wish to ask something and use an appropriate non-verbal expression, as well as a firm but friendly tone of voice.

Describe exactly you wish that he / she would do.

Tell the person how you expect that you should feel when he / she has that behavior.

Remark: it is possible that in the daily use of this skill the order of the steps should be: 'I would be very happy if you. ' or 'I wish that you '. This skill learning procedure has the children understand that this way of requesting the other for something that dissatisfies us as far as his / her behavior is concerned is the best way to get what we want and at the same time the way to avoid and / or solve a conflict.

3. Tension and Anxiety Dissolving

The client – social worker relation is based on trust. The children in distress are often under pressure. The following exercises aim at settling a relation based on trust between the members of a group and each and every individual. Concerning the exercises below we would like to draw your attention to the fact that the social worker should not oblige anyone to unwillingly participate in the exercise.

After each exercise the remarks will be discusses with the entire group present.

Exercise: „Falling” trust

The social worker asks the children to stand in pairs. Either one of each pair stand with his / her back turned to his pair. The second child will stand approx. 0.5 – 1.0 m. behind the first one so that he / she could catch the first one’s armpits when the first falls on his back. At the signal, the first one, keeping his arms close to his / her thighs, lets himself / herself fall on his/her back, keeping his/her body tense (rigid). After that, the members of the pairs shift places.

The social worker must have certain experience concerning this exercise and teach them how to safely catch the falling one. He / she should also specify that the height, body weight difference or sex do not influence the correct performance of the exercise – however big body weight differences should not be allowed. It is recommendable that the pairs should work successively; only scarcity of time could justify parallel practising (adapted after: Rudas, J. 1997, p. 211)

Exercise: “Seesaw”

Under the guidance of the social worker, the children will stand close to one another in a circle. The circle should an approx. 2 m. diameter.

A member of the group will stand in the middle of the circle: he is the “tongue of the seesaw”. With his / her eyes closed, arms close to his / her thighs, rigid body, he / she will let himself / herself fall in a preferential direction. The children standing that direction will catch him/her with their hands, not let him/her fall, then push him/her in some other preferential direction. After approx. 1 minute “the tongue of the seesaw” will shift places with another member of the group and the exercise will go on until each child of the group is the „tongue” in his / her own turn (adapted after: Rudas, J. 1997).

Exercise: „Together in the elevator”

At the social worker’s request, one of the members of the group lies down, his body stretched, face up, arms along his/her thighs, eyes closed. Some other child will sit at his / her head, the others at his / her sides from shoulders to feet. All sit as in a genuflexion and put their hands under the child lying down on so that his / her body should be on their palms.

At the social worker’s signal, the group members will very slowly lift the lying child in the air at a safe height. Then, at the child’s signal, will slowly let him / her down. They will stop at a medium height and slowly rock him / her to the right and left. Then, they will finally put him/her down so that he / she smoothly touches the ground.

The group members’ will be attracted their attention to the fact that the purpose is causing pleasure, joy to the one in the „elevator”. After that, the child „in the elevator” will shift places with some one else and the exercise is repeated (adapted after: Rudas, J., 1997)

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