When I look back at some of my biggest parenting fails, most of them have occurred when I haven’t taken the time to consider my kids’ emotions or help them process their worry, anger, fear, or whatever else it is they are experiencing right in that very moment.

That’s why I’m loving the beautiful new card game illustrated by Jaime Letourneau, A Penny For Your Thoughts, created to help kids talk about emotions.

I spent some time this week playing this game with my most passionate — read: unpredictable — child at bedtime, and I saw an almost immediate positive impact in his (or her, I’ll never tell) behavior.

Related: 30+ fantastic open-ended questions to ask your kids, so you don’t get a yes or no answer.

A Penny For Your Thoughts: A fun way to get kids talking about their emotions.

A Penny For Your Thoughts: A fun way to get kids talking about emotions.

There are board game mechanics to this set — rolling a die to pick a card, and so on — but honestly, this isn’t something I see my family sitting down to play if they’re in the mood for a good game. Instead, it’s been an amazing conversation starter for my kids who struggle to verbalize their concerns or complaints.

We spread the person, place, and emotion cards across their beds, then they look them over and pick the card that matches their feelings.

Then, we can talk through the skills cards — the set of cards that gives kids coping mechanisms for the different emotions they are experiencing. For example, “Stand tall and say, ‘Stop, that’s not OK!'” or “Go to my favorite place and read or play quietly to calm down.”

Related: An awesome personal journal app that helps kids learn about empathy

Watching my kids match the skills cards with their emotions has sparked some really great conversations among us. “Really, your friend makes you feel this way?,” or (gulp), “I make you feel that way sometimes?”

Yep, that last one is always a shot to the gut, but it’s been so helpful to get it out there and talk through it.

If you have a highly emotional or sensitive kid at home, this game might be a great way to work through some issues together.

Plus, it’s a lot cheaper than therapy.

You can find the A Penny For Your Thoughts conversation cards at their website, or from one of our favorite indie shops, Treehouse Kid & Craft.

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