Handling Big Emotions
Children are emotional beings.
They feel so passionately and so strongly but they haven’t yet developed the ability to self-regulate. These emotions can often engulf children in a wave of sensations and they temporarily lose all control. Most children go through phases where they are constantly “melting down” over one thing or another but often as language develops, they become a bit older, or their ability to self regulate and handle challenging situations becomes more refined these emotions tend to reduce. There are some children however, who continue to struggle with how to handle these big emotions and as a result their parents become lost, frustrated and confused as to how to help their children.
It is easy for parents to become frustrated with their children – “I’ve told them over and over that we don’t _____!” insert whatever behaviour your child typically resorts to hitting, biting, pushing, hair pulling, screaming, throwing, etc. Or “No matter what I do or say, I’m in for a fight or tantrum.” Does any of this sound familiar?
Children are not good or bad. They don’t enjoy losing control, and they don’t mean to hurt people. But when these trying times do happen, they need us to help them deal with those emotions BEFORE the incident, DURING the incident, and AFTERWARDS. How we respond to young children and their emotions can impact their lives for years. It is so important to address these challenges with compassion, understanding and keep any judgements out of the conversation.
When children are at the peak of feeling – emotions are heightened, they may be crying, screaming, very angry, or appear out of control – they are unable to process any information. When you see your child in this phase your only goal is to help them calm down. This might mean giving them space while keeping them safe and any other children around them. It could also look like giving them a big hug – the deep pressure of a hug can help relax their body and calm them down. It might even be as simple as providing them with a comfort item and saying, “I’m here when you’re ready.”
Once they have calmed down, that is your teachable moment.
You can talk through the event, the emotions and the actions that took place and address any safety concerns that occurred. If someone was hurt in the process it is important to follow up with that person and ask if they are ok and if the child can do anything to help them feel better. This can be a hug (if the child is open to offering / providing one, but is not necessary), a cold cloth, an ice pack, getting a comfort item for the hurt person, etc.
Challenging behaviours can be overwhelming and distressing for parents to deal with. We have many years of experience supporting children with challenging behaviours and extra support needs. We would love to support you through this difficult time.
We came across a post by Childhood101 about how to manage big emotions. We think it’s an excellent read and a great place to start. We would love to hear your feedback!