When your child gets upset or angry, usually as parents you get upset as well. Older children as well as young children can still have emotional outbursts or tantrums, and often these are a result of the inability to self-regulate and manage big emotions. Children need help to manage these emotions and the only way to resolve them is to go through them.
Below are a few ways to help your child manage big emotions.
Take time to calm down, including calming yourself
When emotional outbursts occur, first allow your child to take some time to calm down away from everyone else. A quiet space can help your child re-group – provide music, books or other materials to help them calm down. As your child learns to manage big emotions, they will become aware of how a quiet space and a safe adult can affect them and help them deal with big feelings.
Remember to take a deep breath before engaging with your child, the goal is to help your child calm down, not escalate the outburst into a storm. Despite how your child behaves with their outburst, it’s important to remember not to take the situation personally, this is about your child’s tangled-up feelings. This is an opportunity to build a closer bond with your child and teach them helpful life lessons about dealing and responding to emotions. So, take the time become calm so you can help your child find calm.
Count to ten & Breathe slowly
When your child is in a quiet space, or even if that is not possible where your child experiences big emotions, getting your child to count to ten can help them to calm down down before the situation escalates. This brief pause can also allow you to composure yourself and help you both deal with the situation in a calm manner. It also helps to connect with your child, both of you counting to ten together.
Taking deep breaths and breathing slowly after counting to ten can help to calm down the situation. Learning to take deep breaths and practice measured breathing is also a great life lesson for your child to learn what to do when dealing with big feelings. Don’t underestimate “Belly” breathes, as it tells your child’s brain to be calm by activating the relaxation response.
Talk about emotions – Notice and Name Them
It is difficult for a child to deal with emotions especially if they can’t identify them. An early step helping your child manage big feelings is to teach them to identify their feelings. Teach them to say “I’m feeling sad” or “I’m feeling angry”. As your child grows they will learn more about different types of feelings, and as parent you can help them to better navigate their feelings when they communicate how they feel.
Connect with your child & Understand how they feel
Connecting with your child emotionally, and physically if possible, can help your child to better navigate their feelings as well as to ensure the situation doesn’t escalate. Using touch, warmth, your tone of voice and behaviour can all help you connect with your child. Example verbal cues include:
“I will help you…”
“I can see that you …”
“I understand you…”
“You can handle this”
Matching your tone to your child can help them not to escalate, if you sound upset or concerned your child can understand how they feel. Asking questions to be sure you understand how your child feels can also help them to talk or elaborate on how they feel. “…Is that right?”, “….so you’re angry because….” Can help you understand how your child is feeling, and help your child feel understood.
Set boundaries for what behaviour is acceptable and not
Children have tantrums, it’s a fact a life. Feeling angry or sad is acceptable, but hurting others is not. Set clear boundaries for your child on what behaviour is appropriate even during difficult times. Teaching your child early on that hurting others or breaking items is not acceptable will help them to manage big feelings in a productive way.
Ask for help for you and your child
Teaching your child its always okay to ask for help can help kids deal with big feelings. While you ultimately want your child to learn how to deal with big emotions, as an adult you understand that sometimes you also need help, whether that is just to talk through how you are feelings. Letting your child know you are always there to help them or to talk through their emotions can help them feel safe and supported.
If you need assistance to help your child deal with big feelings, join our workshop Helping our Children Manage Big Feelings. If you need further support, talking to a specialist can help you and your child to manage their feelings.
Here at Women’s Health and Wellbeing Services we support women and families through:
- Individual counselling
- Children’s counselling
- Teens counselling
- Perinatal counselling
- Relationship and Family counselling
- And much more
You can find out more about our services online or feel free to get in touch if you need assistance.