EMOTIONS: Ways to Empower your Kids to Cope
During times of intense emotion with your child, it will be very hard for you to have a logical conversation with them. As with all of us, the emotional part of our brain kicks in, and it needs a chance to de-escalate before we can start understanding the current situation in a way that is helpful. During this stage, children are not able to problem solve, think of others, or understand their own behavior at times. Therefore, it is important to know as a parent, what helps your child when they are upset, and what you can do to support them. The first thing I do in session is ask the teen or child- “What do your parents do that is helpful when you are upset?” They may say “ Rub my back, give me a hug, listen, take me out of the house, etc.” Most times they have an answer, and other times they say “ Well, I know what I don’t what them to do.” They usually list off yelling, rapid questioning, debating their emotional state instead of accepting it, and a general matching of their intense emotions. None of these are helpful when someone, anyone, is upset. I know this goes against our natural state sometimes when it appears that someone is losing it over a non issue- but try to choose empathy. Whatever is currently going on, is TRULY upsetting to them. We ALL know what that feels like. With empathy in the forefront of our approach, here are some other tips:
1.Let the child have space if they need it, while letting them know that you are there and ready when they are willing to talk. Some kids truly have a fear of sharing what is going on with them, in fear that they may disappoint you, make you mad, or your reaction would remind them that they should not share things with you. Try your best to understand any of these dynamics if they are going on. Also, be sure to check back in with your child after they have calmed down. Be ready to process or help problem solve if they are ready and willing.
2. Teach your child to breathe! Our breath is truly powerful. Click to learn more but as this article says: Our breath is the remote control for our brain! This means big things for emotional control. Helping your child count to 5 inhaling, and 8 exhaling along with them or even modeling this for them can be very helpful. Say “ Just CALM DOWN” is not effective, but showing them how you are staying calm by your breathing is.
3. Come up with a list of things they enjoy to do that calms them. This can be taking a bath, drawing, listening to music, coloring, taking a walk outside, playing with the dog, etc. Remember we are all different, so that means what may work for you or another child may not be calming to them. Help them develop a plan for when they are upset so that they have several things to do so they can calm down. This is teaching them that emotions are healthy and normal, but our REACTIONS to these emotions are what we need to learn to manage. And we are all learning to do this everyday. They are not alone.
4. Remember that they are paying attention to how YOU handle your emotions. This is not the most popular but it’s true. Are you disengaging when you are frustrated or are you yelling when you child has done something wrong? It is important to show children that they are responsible for their emotions, communicating them, and managing them. If you are matching their voice, tone, and volume- you are continuing to escalate the situation. You are as much in charge of your emotions and your stress as they are in managing their own emotions and stress. Showing them this, gives them confidence and perseverance so they know they can do hard things.
***Disclaimer: This blog is the opinion of an individual and does not constitute professional advice or a professional relationship to the reader. If you are seeking mental health services, please contact a therapist in your area. If you are experiencing an emergency, please go to the nearest hospital or call 911.***