If you’re anything like me, you’re constantly looking for ways to help your children handle their big emotions. Watching our kids melt down can also trigger some “big feelings” in us as parents, ranging from anger to embarrassment or even fear. It can be challenging to know what to do when our children are trotting quickly down the road of complete emotional chaos.
This is a natural part of parenting, but when the big storm strikes, having tools in our emotional regulation tool-kit can make all the difference between responding to our child calmly or reacting to our child and subsequently escalating the blow-up. Heightened emotional states can be unpredictable, so it’s all about pre-planning — how can we prepare our kids (and ourselves) to respond well when they do become emotionally overwhelmed?
Give these three ideas a shot this week to help build emotional regulation.
- Take your child outside on a semi-cloudy day. Lay on the grass if you’re feeling extra adventurous or just take a moment to raise your gaze to the clouds above you. Notice how they pass through the sky. Remind your child that they are the sky and their feelings are the clouds. In a moment of heightened emotional intensity, it may feel like the opposite but remind your child that feelings do not last forever. Just like the clouds, they will pass through.
- Help them identify their “storm starters.” We all have triggers that lead us into emotional dsyregulation- especially children. Pull out a sheet of paper and encourage your child to sketch out some clouds, then fill them in with their own “storm starters”. Whether it’s “new situations”, “transitions”, “not getting what I want” or “feeling misunderstood”, when you and your child can identify their storm starters you are both better equipped to help meet the need before it starts pouring.
- Encourage your child to notice what happens in their body when they feel certain emotions. Does their jaw start to clench when they feel anger? Do their hands feel numb when they’re anxious? Next time your child begins to head down a road of emotional intensity, get curious with them about the physical manifestations of their emotional experience. This helps move something fairly abstract (emotions) to a more concrete indicator.
Ie. When my jaw starts clenching I realize I’m about to burst with anger. Therefore, I can take a time out to calm down away from others.
Remember, at the end of the day our feelings are messengers, not facts. With practice, we can help our children experience their emotions as God intended, as a meaningful part of the human experience, not an overwhelming flood of chaos.