Helping your child handle emotions is one of the hardest things that a parent can do. Sometimes, we, as adults, struggle to handle emotions, so teaching kids without complete impulse control to do so is a challenge.
Emotions for kids are amplified. They feel a whole lot bigger than what you and I might experience, which is why I call them "big feelings." When your child feels sad, their emotions take over their whole bodies.
As parents, we want our kids to be able to handle their emotions. You can do that for them! Here are some tips to help your child handle emotions.
6 Tips to Help Your Child Handle Emotions
1. Give Their Feelings a Name
The first step that all parents need to take is to help give their child's feelings a name. How can a child learn how to manage those emotions without knowing what he is feeling?
Having a chart or something that helps your child pinpoint those emotions is beneficial. For example, you can use the merka placemat that depicts different emotions humans feel each day. Then, when your child feels one of those, he can point at it and tell you.
At first, you'll start identifying basic emotions, such as happy, sad, and mad. Then, as your child gets older, you can use more specific names for emotions, such as anxious, disappointed, or frustrated. Once your child can learn to identify his emotions, it makes learning how to cope with them easier.
2. Teach Your Child to Discover the Trigger
Once your child knows the name of the emotion, it's time to start figuring out the trigger, or what caused him to feel that way.
Here are some examples.
- Your child asked to go to the park, but you're busy completing work, so you say "No."
- His sibling took his favorite toy.
- He went to see a movie, but he ended up not liking the movie.
- Grandma came over to visit, but now she has to go home.
All of these examples can lead to different emotions, and helping your child understand his emotions and the trigger is essential. Let your child know that you understand empathize with what they're feeling.
"Grandma came over to visit, and you two had a fantastic time playing blocks. Now, Grandma has to go home, and you feel sad because you will miss her."
3. Let Them Know to Talk It Out
The idea that emotions are for "babies" or that "boys can't cry" is outdated and harmful. It could be why so many adults struggle to process their emotions; they were led to believe that they are harmful.
Let your child know that everyone, regardless of their age, feels emotions. The problem is that not everyone knows the right and wrong way to express their emotions. Tell your child that they are free to feel whatever emotions come out of all situations, but they can and do need to learn how to manage those feelings.
If he feels upset, he can talk to you, and you can help him manage those emotions.
Let's go back to the Grandma situation now. Imagine that little Johnny is screaming and hitting Grandma because of his strong feelings about her leaving. Here's something that you can say while holding Johnny.
"Feeling sad because Grandma is leaving is okay. You can be sad and miss her, but you cannot hit and scream because you're sad. You can cry, and you can ask Grandma if she can come back soon or call you tomorrow."
4. Teach Coping Skills, Even If Removal is Necessary
Have you ever responded to a situation without thinking? Let's be honest; we all have done so, but that's something we all need to learn to not do.
Teach your child to remove himself from the situation or to take the time to think before responding. That might be counting to 10 before getting mad and reacting to something his sibling did.
There are dozens of ideas for coping mechanisms. That can be writing down their thoughts for older kids, crying into a pillow, or even stomping their feet in their bedroom to let out those emotions. If you look online, you can find ideas for coping skills for all emotions, so I highly encourage you to do so and have some ready in your "parenting toolbox."
5. Don't Fix The Issues
I know that you often, as do I, feel the need to fix whatever is bothering your child. You might want to remove the problem or just take the pain away. These are normal reactions since we're parents and protect our children.
The best way to help your child is to allow him to work through the problem on his own. That's hard; no parent wants to step back, but as your child gets older, you won't be able to protect them when incidents happen.
Your child is to teach your child to handle whatever comes their way.
6. Always Emotionally Support Your Child
No matter what, we need to emotionally support our children. Sometimes, the kids need a hug and to let them know what you understand their emotions and how they feel. Show your child while they struggle to behave appropriately throughout their emotions.
Later, after you watched your child handle their emotions, let them know how proud you are! As your child gets older, you'll notice that he handles emotions with increasing maturity.
Continue to hold onto age-appropriate expectations throughout all of this! You always need to match your expectations to their age to avoid disappointment and unnecessary tears from both of you.