our care) have feelings. Huge ones. It's
like a colossal tsunami that came out of
nowhere, causing us to feel stunned, helpless, and unsure of what to do next.
The things that cause these reactions can be baffling to us, especially if they
seem to make no sense, leaving us ready to throw up our hands and join in the meltdown process.
Here are a few things that can help you feel a little less helpless as you help
kiddos navigate these tricky and trying experiences
In the moment…
Help your child to communicate what is going on with them. Often times, using
words isn't the easiest for children when they are in this state. Can they draw
their feelings? Show you with their arms how big they are? Point to examples of
faces with different emotions? My son likes to pretend that his feelings are in a
volcano, and he shows me with his hand how high the hot lava of any given
feeling is (He incorporates hot lava any chance he gets in his life. Volcanoes are,
clearly, the coolest thing ever). You know your child, and can use your insight to
help them figure out how they can best share what is going on for them.
2. Body work
Children often need some sort of method of dealing with the physical component of their feelings. For some, it's getting that energy out (jumping jacks, running
around, etc). Some kids find benefit in having a bottle that is filled with water and glitter that they can shake around with all of their feelings, and slowly watch the
glitter settle, allowing them to do the same. For others, it's coming to a place of
slow deep breaths. You can have them imagine they are breathing in the smell of yummy hot chocolate, and blowing out to cool the cup of hot liquid (hot chocolate=another one of the major excitements in my son's world) which will help their
body to calm down. Questions can be asked about where they are feeling the
emotions in their body, and then they can try to relax those areas, or blow the
feelings out into a balloon. Again, you know your kiddo. Experiment and see
what seems to resonate with them
This isn't ignoring what has happened or an attempt to rush past and pacify an
upset child. Once the above two ideas have been addressed (or feelings are too
big in the moment to be able to try the above mentioned steps), re-directing to
something besides the source of the emotional upset can help the child reset and not remain in a place of struggle. This can be a way of helping them move on. The issue can be re-addressed, if necessary, once things have calmed down a bit.
When not in the moment...
If there are certain situations that are trigging for the little one in your life, making a plan with them ahead of time can be an empowering thing for them, and
something you can reference together in the difficult moments. Picking out some ideas together and writing them down, making pictures about them, or having
them in a "toolbox" of ideas that they can pull out could be fun, and help set
everyone's mind a little more at ease, knowing that there are tools for support in place.
You can also have a conversation with children about their brain, and what is
going on when they are having the big feelings. Feelings are information, and can be our brain's way of trying to tell us something isn't right. Approaching the
feelings with curiosity, like a detective, can change the relationship to the feelings so they aren't so overwhelming (this works for adults, too).
A few other practical tips….
It's also helpful to remember that changing up the routine, being sleep-deprived, and being hungry are elements that contribute to bigger-than-usual feelings and difficulty regulating emotions for kiddos. Obviously, life happens. Things get
changed up. Just remember that these can be contributing factors, and that your children might need a little extra support in these situations (as might you).
Caregiving is tough, but you can do it! Remember to take care of yourself, too. It's one of the most important keys to successful and happy parenting :)