Most often, when our children are having trouble keeping it together, we lose our cool too - of course, this doesn’t help the situation one bit!
With a bit of preparation and a strategy we can help our little ones through those moments when they are experiencing overwhelming emotions like anger, frustration, jealousy or embarrassment.
It is not about teaching them they they shouldn’t have these feelings or that they aren’t important or even that they should be suppressed. It is all about helping them find a socially acceptable way of dealing with them and in a way that does not hurt others.
Remember though, the most important thing we can do as parents is to validate our children’s feelings. If they know you care and understand, the road to helping them to manage their feelings will be that little bit easier.
Here are 5 steps to helping them manage their emotions:
1. Remember - it is never okay to hurt others
Set guidelines about what is acceptable behaviour - lashing out, breaking things or hurting other people is not okay
2. Take 3 deep breaths and slowly count to 10
Try this experiment with them to help them to understand how they feel before the breaths and afterwards. It is a great tool for them to use whenever they are feeling angry, frustrated or overwhelmed and it gives them time to calm down and think more rationally
3. Use my words to say how I feel and what I wish would happen
This is helpful because it prompts them to recognise the feelings for what they are. By explaining how they feel and what they wish would happen also helps to diffuse those overwhelming feelings. Of course, what they wish would happen won’t always be a suitable solution but it provides an basis for discussion to find other solutions
4. Ask for help to solve my problem
We as adults know that if we talk about a problem it suddenly seems less of a problem. Encouraging them to talk about the problem and ways to solve it will not only make them feel better but it keeps the communication lines open for when they are older and have bigger problems!
5. Take time to calm down
Even though a solution may have been reached, it many not be exactly as they wanted and there may still be feelings of anger, hurt, frustration etc so it is important that they take the time to walk away from the ‘scene’ and take time to calm down.
Calming down can be done in many ways, depending on what they feel works best for them. It may be sitting quietly or laying on the bed in their room with they eyes closed or it may be that they want to run around outside and kick a ball. Perhaps they might even want to punch their pillow or just need a big hug.