Teaching kids perspective helps children manage their reactions. It doesn’t feel good for the child or others when a child screams “I WANTED THE GREEN CUP” while uncontrollably crying or crinkling all the cards up after losing a game of Go Fish.

These are small problems where the response is a disproportionally big reaction.

Below, is one strategy to help handle these situations.

The below exercises teach children perspective by helping children develop their ability to critically think about problems. These social emotional learning (SEL) exercises enable children to think through problems, which helps them avoid big feelings or more quickly get out of any big sad or angry feeling.

“The Size of The Problem,” a social emotional learning (SEL) activity, helps children visualize problems to learn perspective and cope.

First: Set The Stage

Find a time when you and your child are calm - not in the middle or immediately after feeling a big emotion.

This conversation should take place in a manner that is as chill as if you were asking them about their favorite color.

Start by asking the child if they’ve ever had something happen in their life that made them feel “uh oh.” Share that you’ve had that type of experience too. Tell them that you overcome these moments by first identifying the size of the problem that is happening.

Second: Introduce The 3 Sizes Of Problems

Then, introduce that all problems come in 3 sizes: Small, medium, large. Have the child think of 3 animals that fit into each of these sizes: 1 animal for each size. You and your child will refer to these 3 animals when faced with a problem in the future.

Introduce that small problems are quickly fixed like breaking a pencil – just sharpen it.

Medium problems are things we may softly cry about for a few minutes like scrapping our knee and needing a bandaid. It may take a little longer to fix and you may need to stop what you’re doing to fix it.

Large problems take some time to solve and they do not usually happen very often such as needing to go to the hospital.

Third: Practice identifying the size of 5 problems

During this step, feel free to use the below examples or your own. It’s helpful to start with a situation that the child easily copes with already. The goal is they will easily be able to identify that problem as a “small problem.”

Next, choose another hypothetical question that may be more challenging to identify. It’s helpful if this isn’t necessarily a problem the child has experienced but is a kid type problem they could experience. This will help the child not feel concerned that this conversation is targeting or attacking them personally. By keeping things holistic, the child is able to openly talk about the situations. Use 2-4 of these types of questions.

Finally, if there’s a situation the child is struggling with, use that as another exercise example. Talk through the situation and guiding the child to identify what type of problem it is.


During the above social emotional learning exercises, sometimes a child will mislabel a size of a problem. They may say “oh, that’s a huge problem! I’ve had that happen!” This is often because it’s something they are struggling to manage their emotion with and their emotion is super strong. If you know it is actually not a huge problem, it is helpful to frame the situation with guiding questions such as “well, let’s see, a huge problem results in having to go to the hospital or something that can never ever be fixed. Is that true of this problem? How?”

Occasionally, you may have to end the conversation with “I know it feels huge to you but when we compared it to other big problems we knew, it actually wasn’t a big problem. It’s a small or medium problem and people in the world fix that problem in this way……" Then follow that up with: "So, now you tell me, when this problem happens, how do most people in the world fix it?”

Step 4: Wrapping up the conversation

Once your child has successfully completed the above SEL exercises on developing perspective, then use the below script to wrap up the conversation.

Finally: Real life application

When a child has a real life problem:

1st: make sure you are calm & relaxed when helping them cope.

2nd: have the child explain what happened.

3rd: ask the child to identify the size of that problem

4th: ask the child to talk about how this problem can be solved


First, this is totally normal. We all still have social and emotional problems that are challenging for us to cope with. They just get more intricate the older we get – relationship dynamics, job dynamics, homework becomes more rigorous, increased responsibilities, etc.

Whether a child is struggling with more complex social-emotional problems or the same problems they’ve been struggling with, repeat these SEL conversations with a few more follow up scenarios in times when the child is calm. Make sure the SEL scenarios are the same complexity/size as the ones they struggle with in real life. Repeating this SEL conversation will help reinforce and give the child an opportunity to practice the social-emotional skill when they are calm. The more practice, the stronger their ability to cope in real life situations gets.

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