One of the hardest things to learn in life, which all adults themselves can attest to (and still struggle with), is learning how to manage emotions. For children in particular, episodes of emotional turmoil can be very common. When kids are young, the intellect is still largely undeveloped, while reactive, emotional behaviors tend to rule. As a survival mechanism, infants learn that reacting brings about their desired response. Tired? Whine. Thirsty? Cry. We’ve all heard of the terrible two’s…
Although it is acceptable for children to experience and display their emotions, the way they portray them may need to be regulated. When your child is in distress you may want to go into panic mode as well, but if we as parents do not make an effort to manage our state, we risk not teaching our children an incredibly valuable life lesson- how to stay calm and manage emotions.
Here are some tips on how to stay calm when your child is not…
1. Shift Your Energy
The most important thing you can do as a parent is to first take care of your own emotions by changing your negative energy into positive energy. No matter how mad or upset you are in the moment, don’t yell or reprimand. Instead, ask what you can do to help or make the situation better. Stop clenching your hands or tensing up and instead console and hug them. Children need to feel nurtured.
There aren’t many things that can irk like a child screaming and crying. When you feel anger or frustration seeping in, take a brief moment to yourself to focus on your breath. With each exhale, release negative emotions as well.
3. Get on the Same Level
When your child begins to get upset, try to make an effort to make level eye contact. Bend down, and hold their hands in yours, all the while remaining calm. If you are driving in the car, pull to the side of the road, and shift your body language so that you are turned around and facing them.
4. Encourage Conversation
Try to encourage your child to verbalize what they are experiencing. If they are speaking through tears, tell them that you can’t understand and wait until they have caught their breath and settled down before you respond to their issues, and then together come to a solution. Let them know you understand how they feel and why they feel that way, but that the solution will never come about from getting riled up.
5. Be a Model
Adults are prone to getting upset or losing their cool themselves, but try to make an effort to avoid doing so in front of your children. When you get upset be very conscious of the language you use, especially when you are interacting with your child. Never say things like “Be quiet” or “That’s enough!”… Be a mirror so that they will learn to emulate your behavior.
Once you and your child are calm, reevaluate the situation together and reflect on what happened. Most of the time there will be a learning experience for both of you and by staying calm throughout the situation you can turn any negative experience into a positive one!