No matter our age, crying is a natural response when we are faced with overwhelming emotions. Children tend to be hit even harder by big emotions because they lack experience with managing intense feelings.
Facing big emotions can be a significant challenge for kids until they learn how to manage them effectively. This is not a skill that children acquire overnight. It’s essential for parents to understand that it takes time and patience for children to develop self-awareness and healthy strategies for coping with big emotions.
You can help children manage overwhelming feelings by using the following techniques:
Identify the emotion
It’s easy for children to become upset about things they don’t understand. When big emotions hit them, they can become overwhelmed. It’s essential to teach young children how to articulate what they’re feeling. Kids need to learn how to name each emotion they experience as they learn how to navigate and manage those feelings.
For example, if a playmate broke one of your child’s toys, you might say, “I know that you’re angry right now. Can you tell me why?” If you had to postpone a family trip because of bad weather, you may tell your child, “I understand that you’re sad right now,” and you might even use this as an opportunity to share your own feelings of disappointment as well.
Emotional awareness promotes healthy mental well-being. It helps children have a better understanding of themselves.
Draw a line between feelings and behaviors
As parents, it is our role to teach our children how to express their emotions effectively. If your child has a tendency to hurt others or destroy objects, you need to teach them that these behaviors are unacceptable.
Acknowledge your child’s emotions, but be clear that violent or aggressive behaviors will result in negative consequences. You can say, “You are getting a time-out because you hurt your sister.”
Empathize with your child
Downplaying children’s feelings teaches them that their emotions are not valid. Remember that all emotions are okay, regardless of how big and overwhelming they might be.
Whether children are feeling upset, frustrated, or angry, it’s important for them to know that you recognize and understand their feelings.
When your child is disappointed, you can say, “I know you’re upset because we didn’t go to the playground. I get upset too when I can’t do what I want to do.” This statement teaches your child the following:
- That we all feel disappointed sometimes
- That strong negative emotions dissipate eventually. Your child will not feel this way forever.
At times, it can be hard to know how to respond to your child’s overwhelming excessive emotions. It’s important to understand that all children are unique and have the right to feel the way they do at any given time. Acknowledge your child’s feelings as you allow your little one to work through their emotions. Remember that children need to feel, understand, and eventually cope with their feelings. Accept that your child will have different levels of sensitivity and temperament.
Teach your child how to regulate strong emotions
The most effective way to regulate childrens’ strong emotions depends heavily on the developmental stage and age of your child. Remember that children ages three years old and younger can not manage their own behavior easily. Even so, you can still take steps to teach young children about emotion management. Below are some simple techniques to help your child regulate overwhelming emotions:
- Deep breathing. This is a well-known technique for relaxation. Teach your child by showing your little one how to breathe in and out slowly. When children inhale, tell them to imagine smelling a flower. And when they exhale, ask them to do so like they’re blowing up a balloon.
- Keep calm and count. Help children dispel negative and overwhelming thoughts by telling them to look at their surroundings and find things that they can count. This mental task helps lessen stress.
- Encourage mood-boosting activities. What types of things make your little one happy? Does your child love to draw? Or playing outside? Create a list of your little one’s favorite activities, and encourage your child to engage in these types of activities in order to keep his or her mind off of negatively triggering thoughts.
Prevent outburst reinforcement
Some parents might not realize that their responses to their children’s strong emotions can sometimes encourage further outbursts. Here are some things to avoid:
- Offering rewards once your child calms down. Giving treats to a child who has calmed down after an outburst gives children the green light to repeat the same process in the future in order to get what they want.
- Giving your child more attention. While providing comfort is necessary, overdoing it can create bad habits. This can lead to children learning that outbursts are the way to get your attention.
- Telling your child to stop crying. This method can result in further outbursts because their emotions are likely to intensify if they see you becoming agitated or angry when they cry.
Helping children learn how to effectively manage big emotions is one of the things we promote here at The Pillars Christian Learning Center. Call us today for more information!