We all worry about our kids learning to manage their emotions. After all, emotions so often get us off track and into trouble. And of course, sometimes we, as a parent, need to say “No.” Setting bounds on a child’s behavior definitely doesn’t imply that we have to set limits on what they feel. In fact, parents can never keep their child from getting upset, whether they allow it or not. If you send your kid to his room to calm down, it won’t keep him from being upset. In fact, it will just portray a scary picture in his mind that he is all alone with those emotions. And, for the next time, he will try to stuff his emotions.
We are all born with emotions, but not all those emotions are pre-wired into our brains. Kids are born with emotional reactions, including crying, frustration, hunger, and pain. And, with the passage of time, they learn about other emotions. There is no universal agreement about the emotions that are in-built against those that are cultured from emotional and social contexts. Anger, sadness, fear, joy, interest, surprise, disgust, and shame are the primary in-built emotions. Their different combinations generally form other secondary emotions. For example, resentment and violence are associated with anger, and anxiety stems from fear.
Secondary emotions are linked to these primary emotions and are learned from our experiences. For instance, if a child has been punished for a meltdown, he is more likely to feel anxious the next he gets angry. If a child has been mocked for articulating fear, there are more chances that he might feel shame the next time he gets afraid. In other quarters, our kids’ emotional intelligence highly depends on the way how we react to their emotions.
Meltdowns happen. But we need to teach our kids how to manage emotions. Emotional control is the ability to manage emotions to achieve goals, complete daily chores, or direct behavior. A young child with emotional control ability needs a short time to recover from a disappointment. A teenager can handle apprehension over taking a test and do well. But, kids with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) usually find it difficult to handle their emotions. With all these children, empathy certainly works well.
When we try to curb emotions, those emotions go beyond conscious control. So when our kid acts out, those emotions pop out unregulated. When our kid lashes out, it is that dysregulation that panics us. On the other hand, kids don’t get dysregulated because we allow their emotions. If they find it hard to express an emotion, they act it out.
So refuting feelings or making ourselves wrong for having emotions does not help us regulate them. A child actually learns to control his emotions from you. The children watch and learn from your every move. So, at one end parents need to work hard to control their own emotions. And, the other side of the picture is teaching kids a plan to manage their emotions when they feel out of control or distressed.
5 Steps to Develop a Calm down Plan
Anger, overwhelm, discouragement, embarrassment, and jealousy. Preparing kids to learn ways to manage all these big emotions helps parents to stay calm and also teaches kids to find suitable ways to express their emotions.
Here are five steps that can help kids control their emotions.
Step 1: Take deep breaths and count to 10
First of all, you need to help your kids comprehend what they feel is utterly normal, but their reaction is significant to calm down and stay in control. Taking deep breaths and counting to ten – forward or backward – can give children sufficient time to recognize their body’s sensations. These sensations may include the sense of anger running through them, clenched hands, grinding teeth or bruxism and fidgeting.
To develop an action plan, you need to talk to your kids about how they feel when they are annoyed or upset. Depending on their situation, you can suggest them the idea of taking a few deep breaths to settle themselves before sorting out their emotions, or even worse, taking any physical action against another person.
You can ask your kid how their body feels when they are angry and question about their hands, their heartbeat, teeth, and where you think they are physically holding their feelings. Next, you can ask them to squeeze that area firmly to release the pressure. Take one deep breath to release the tension again to calm down.
Once the child can identify how their body feels, they will begin to foresee the red flags. Identifying these telltale signs when they begin to buzz with fury will help them to compose themselves before their emotions get to the point of outbursting.
Step 2: Calm down in the safest place
When your kid is really upset, they may feel comfortable sitting in a calm down place to cool off. In your home, you must have a room equipped with specific sensual and safe items that can help your kid calm down and manage their emotions.
However, it is always proposed not to separate the kid from the rest of the family. So the safe spot can be near to the central hub of your home. All you need is to promote a calm-down place as a safe spot to go to be yourself and clear your head.
Step 3: It is not ok to hurt anyone
As a parent, you have to make it clear that it is never acceptable to hurt someone, no matter how upset you are. You can set clear limitations, such as kids can’t put hands on another person; they can’t destroy any personal property, and they can’t use hurtful words. If your kid has aggressive tendencies, it is suggested to have them put their hands in their pockets. This way, you can keep them from acting out towards others or damaging their things.
Step 4: Use words to express feelings
Emotions are valid and important, and it is fine to express feelings in an acceptable way; all kids need to learn this primary key. For this, you must acknowledge your kid’s feelings by telling them aloud. In this way, your kids will learn to name their feelings.
- I know you are feeling mad because your younger brother took your toy.
- I think you are feeling ashamed because you stumbled and fell in front of your fellows.
The minute you identify your kid’s feelings, tell them what you think they wish would have happened. This way, you can suggest a solution to the circumstance.
- You seem angry because you dropped your milkshake on the floor. You wish you would have held it firmly with both your hands. Would you like me to bring another cup for you?
To help your kid learn to control big emotions, you can train them through “I feel,” “I wish,” and solution statements. This way, you can definitely help your kid work out big emotions and a passive solution when they feel irritated, upset, embarrassed, or frustrated.
Step 5: Ask for help or comfort from an adult
Children don’t have the ability to crack a problem on their own. If they ask an adult to listen to them, an adult can help them process their emotions, and together they can come up with a better solution that the child finds suitable. As a parent, you need to assure your kid to come to you to seek help whenever they feel they can’t solve the problem on their own. Also, tell them that it is fine to ask for support.
You need to keep all the communication lines open and take all possible chances to connect and reconnect with your kid to make them feel safe. When the communication lines are robust, kids always prefer to turn to their parents when they feel frustrated or have to deal with a problem they can’t solve. Emotions are a significant part of the richness of being human. We usually can’t choose what we feel, but we always have an option about how we pick to act. When we are comfortable with our feelings, we feel them deeply, and then they dispel. This gives us more control over emotions. Kids who are parented this way learn to manage their emotions because they have a healthy emotional life, and they are never told not to feel, punished, or humiliated for their feelings. In fact, they are provided open lines of communication for support and help.