My Inner Traffic Light
Design your own traffic lights and use them to help you think about and deal with difficult emotions.
What you’ll need: Paper, markers or pens
What’s it for?
This activity uses the traditional traffic light colours to help you identify and learn how to manage emotions safely. Being able to control your emotions and responses is called self-regulation. This is an especially important skill that will allow you to better cope with and overcome any difficulties and disappointments in life.
Notice how you’re feeling right now. Close your eyes and notice what’s going on inside your mind and body.
How are you feeling?
What are you thinking?
How does your body feel?
You are going to design traffic lights to help you identify your own feelings and find different ways to manage them safely.
Think about traffic lights and how they operate. What does each light indicate? Red means ‘stop’, yellow means ‘get ready to go’ or ‘get ready to stop’ and a green light means ‘go’.
Take a piece of paper and draw three big circles to represent traffic lights, starting from the top left corner of the page and working your way down to the bottom. Leave some space on the right-hand side of the page for writing.
RED LIGHT = STOP
Colour the top circle in red and write STOP in the middle. The RED LIGHT indicates that it is time to STOP when you feel that you may lose control.
Now take some time to think about how you respond when you feel slightly irritated? What about when you feel extremely angry? This could be sweating, crying, feeling hot, shaking, arguing, breathing fast, going quiet, insulting others, punching walls, throwing things, screaming, etc. Try to identify your own warning signs and write them down next to the red traffic light.
Whenever you recognise these signs in yourself, remember to stop as soon as possible before your emotions become unmanageable.
To help you stop, you could count to 100, imagine your safe place, take a few deep breaths, squeeze a stress ball or walk away from a situation that is causing you upset. Write down the best strategy that works for you.
YELLOW LIGHT = REFLECT
Colour the middle circle in yellow and write REFLECT in the middle.
Think about a situation when you felt angry and try to identify possible feelings underneath your anger. Did you feel sad, embarrassed, disappointed, frustrated, anxious, scared or annoyed? Write these feelings down next to the yellow light.
Naming feelings can help you understand where they come from and feel calmer in order to think about a healthy solution to your problem. What would be the most appropriate response? Write down your ideas.
To help you reflect and feel even calmer, you may choose to talk to an adult about it, write it down, draw, listen to the music or play. Choose what works best for you and write it down next to the yellow traffic light.
GREEN LIGHT = ACT
Now colour the bottom circle in green and write ACT in the middle.
When you are calm, you can go ahead and resolve your problem safely. If it involved another person, try and look at the situation from their perspective. How do you think they felt? What would work best for both of you? Choose the best solution and write it down next to the green light.
Now that you have learned how to identify and manage your feelings safely, notice how you feel and name three feelings when you are calm in the green light.
Extra Activity: You can display your picture to remind you about using your internal traffic lights to regulate any difficult emotions day-to-day. It will become easier with practise!
When you’ve finished, spend a moment reflecting on the activity and ask yourself the following questions:
Did you learn anything new about yourself while you did this activity?
Why is it important to be able to regulate our emotions?
What is your favourite tool to help you feel calmer?
This activity uses the traffic lights system to help identify and manage difficult emotions safely. Recognising early warning signs of anger and frustration is an important skill that will allow you to self-regulate during times of distress and respond in a calm and positive way.
Take a moment to notice how you are feeling at the end of this activity. Did you discover anything surprising? What can you take away to make you feel better about yourself from this activity?
If you would like to, share something about your experience with this activity with someone you live with! Ask the person who looks after you to send us an email if you have any questions or comments about the activity, or would like to send us any pictures (firstname.lastname@example.org). Don't forget to subscribe for more fun CAT activities!
Created by Karolina Koman © March 2021
Creative Arts Used: Art, Creative Writing
Psychological Areas Explored: Resilience, Emotional Regulation, Emotional Wellbeing
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These activities could be done by children of all ages, but some may need the support of their parent or carer to read the instructions or complete the activity safely.
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