Does your child have difficulty managing their big feelings?
Are they prone to throwing tantrums when they’re too overwhelmed? Do they shut down when those big feelings come up? Do they work themselves up even more because they don’t know how to deal with them?
Big feelings are hard to manage, even for adults sometimes. So it makes sense that kids would struggle with it–after all, as adults we’ve had a lot more practice navigating our emotions than our kids have. And if we still need help with it, think how overwhelming those big feelings can be for someone without the experience we have in dealing with them?
So how can we help them?
Explore what you’re modeling for them:
Like we said, managing big emotions is hard for everyone, not just kids. Do you have a process of reflection or a way of managing those big feelings in a healthy way? Kids notice our behavior, so what you model will be the starting place for what they learn. Make sure you have a healthy process that you can both model for and teach to your child to help them manage their own feelings.
Give them resources:
There is a lot to learn about our feelings and our mental health. And no matter how hard you may want to be, you can’t be the number one expert on all things for your child. So instead, you get to be the number one expert on how to help your child find the right resource. Start simple: there are a lot of books you can read with your child to help teach them about their big feelings, what they mean, and how they can manage them.
Let them know there are no “bad” feelings:
We don’t like to feel angry or jealous or sad or any other “negative” feeling, but it’s important to learn that having these feelings doesn’t make you bad and there is no way to avoid them forever! All feelings have a purpose, they’re just telling us something about ourselves. It’s our job to try and listen to what they’re saying to us, so we can address the need they’re trying to communicate.
Try deescalation strategies:
Finding a strategy that works when your child does have a tantrum or meltdown can take some effort but there are a number of things you can try. It’s helpful for you and your child if you have a strategy that helps calm you both right in your back pocket.
Help them find their own coping strategies:
If your child can make a plan for how to cope when they’re feeling overwhelmed by their feelings, that can help to give them a stronger sense of control and help reduce any anxiety those big feelings cause. Help them make a list of things they can do when they feel overwhelmed and make sure they have an adult who isn’t you to turn to who you trust, so your child has another option to turn to.