Little Children, Big Emotions
You’re enjoying a nice, quiet morning and then suddenly out of nowhere comes a blood curdling shriek, and the dreaded tears because, “MY SHIRT ISN’T THE ONE I WANT TO WEAR!”
These meltdowns just seem to come out of nowhere. They slow down your day, frazzle your nerves, and sometimes they just make no sense! Our preschoolers may be little, but their emotions certainly aren’t. One of the best skills we can teach our children is emotional awareness. During their sensitive early years it’s our job to guide them through the emotions they’re feeling and show them that emotions don’t have to be scary. The following are some guidelines to help you navigate the world of emotions
1. Know the difference between feelings and behaviors. Children need us to accept their negative feelings, but they need limits on their negative behaviors. We remind our children who act out aggressively that, “you are allowed to be angry, but you are not allowed to hit.” Emotions are what we feel, behavior is what we do.
2. Accept negative emotions! Accepting children’s negative emotions creates a bond of trust and understanding between child and caregiver. It helps children to label their emotions and understand them. When a child is crying instead of telling them “There, there, you’re okay,” try saying, “You’re crying. It seems like your really sad. Do you need me to hold you?” Acknowledge their emotions rather than trying to “fix” them and children realize that it’s okay to feel.
3. Set limits on negative behaviors. Accepting children’s emotions does NOT mean becoming a permissive punching bag. Children need to know that we can handle them. When they feel like they can hurt their parents/caregivers it creates a fear of themselves and their own perceived power. Firm, simple limits such as, “I won't let you hit", while also physically blocking them from hitting, go a long way.
4. Stay calm. When children’s emotions are spiraling out of control they need a calm anchor to hold onto. That is you. You are the adult and your child needs you to model calm acceptance.
It can be overwhelming when your child had a meltdown right in the middle of running an errand/getting ready for school/leaving school/anytime! But with consistence acknowledgement, and firm yet calm limits during these times you will foster an emotionally competent and intelligent child.