Feelings can be scary. Especially when those feelings are BIG. Because feelings like anger and sadness are seen as negative, kids often feel shame around them. But it’s not the feelings that are at fault. I like to tell my kids that there are no “bad” feelings, but there are positive and negative ways to express how you feel.
So often we see kids misbehave (for example, throwing a book when angry), we punish the child (“throwing is wrong”), but never really get to the root of the behavior (Why did the child throw the book?) In order to help our kids develop positive calm down strategies, we need to help them name, explain, and tame their feelings.
Next time your child gets upset, try these tips:
1. Approach the Situation with Inquiry
Often our kids’ big feelings trigger big reactions in us. And rightly so! Seeing my kids act meanly hurts me too. But whenever possible, try to approach the situation with inquiry. Try to uncover why your child acted as she did. When I do this, I try to emotionally remove myself from the situation and look through a more objective lens. Figuring out why big reactions happened helps us to figure out ways to prevent similar situations in the future.
2. Make a Plan
Brainstorm a list of calm-down strategies for your child to try next time she has big feelings. Having a written list of strategies introduces your child to different approaches and gives you a tool to reflect with the next time big feelings occur. Need ideas for strategies to introduce? Check out our Feelings Pack, which comes with a poster of calm-down strategies (and teaches other key social & emotional skills). Use the code ALLTHEFEELS for 25% off.
3. Make it Less Personal
Because kids can feel ashamed of their big feelings, it can be helpful to momentarily take their feelings out of the equation. Instead of talking about your child’s meltdown, read stories where characters deal with big feelings in positive or negative ways. Discuss the strategies the characters used and reflect on whether they were effective or not. Want something more hands on? Try doing a role play or puppet show about characters dealing with big feelings.
4. Talk, Don’t Pry
We want to have candid discussions with our kids, but sometimes talking too much puts too much focus on the feelings. It’s a delicate balance. It can be most important to find the right time to have discussions. Right after a big blowout kids are often still in fight or flight mode and find it hard to talk. But too far after an explosion kids can be too removed and have a hard time remembering what happened. Experiment to find the right time to talk.
5. Reflect and Move On
After you’ve talked about what happened and made a plan for next time, move on. Make sure your child knows that it’s normal to not know how to deal with big feelings and that even grown-ups are still working on expressing their feelings in positive ways.
Helping your kids develop social and emotional awareness is a skill that will benefit them their whole lives. If you’re ready to help your kids express their emotions in positive ways, grab our Feelings Pack (and remember to take 25% off with the code ALLTHEFEELS).