Big Emotions Can Be Scary!
What Do You Do When Your Kid Has Big Emotions?
Big Emotions are intense and scary for anyone… your body is out of control including your hormones and neurotransmitters. Not only are big emotions scary for the person having them, they can scare those around you. Anyone can struggle when they were not taught how to handle big emotions. Your job as a parent is to recognize and understand your own big emotions, learn to deal with them in a healthy way… and then teach your child to do the same.
Steps to Handling BIG EMOTIONS – (When everyone’s calm)
- Discuss what BIG EMOTIONS are: Anger, Sadness, Frustration, Overwhelm, etc.
- Discuss your experiences with BIG EMOTIONS and how everyone has them.
- Make a list with your kid of how to handle BIG EMOTIONS in a healthy way. (take a walk, say how you feel, go to a quite place, get some fresh air, breathe, get a drink of water, get under a heavy blanket, cuddle with loved one…etc.)
- Set Boundaries. Make sure it’s clear that it’s never okay to hurt anyone or anything when angry. Discuss how people do and say things they don’t mean when they are angry, and then they often regret it.
- Role Play. Take turns and try on some big emotions and handling them in a healthy way. My favorites are…
- BIG EMOTION: Anger – getting outside for some fresh air and a walk
- BIG EMOTION: Sadness- going to a quiet place, under a heavy blanket, and a cuddle.
- Think out loud while role-playing and during the day so that your kids can hear what you are thinking as you handle your emotions. “Wow, I’m so mad. I forgot the tickets. I need to take a few breaths… just give me a moment to calm down… maybe a walk too… ” The more your child hears your inner dialogue the more it’ll become theirs.
Steps to Handling BIG EMOTIONS – (When they are happening)
- Recognize big emotion and if needed, set boundaries. Ex. “I can see you are very angry, I will talk to you when you are calm.” (or “no, it’s not okay to hit. First calm down, then you will have my full attention.”)
- Make sure they are safe until calm… even if it takes 45 minutes. Do NOT give them attention until they have calmed down. Do NOT yell at them. Do NOT scare them. They are already scared… just give them space to calm down.
- Once calm, praise them for calming themselves down, even if it took an hour. Then help them clean up as you talk about big emotions. (see “Steps to handling big emotions – when everyone’s calm”… above)
- If your child gets as angry as my 6-year-old, you may need to take a moment for yourself to get some fresh air, listen to some soothing music, or even get a baby sitter for a few hours to recover.
- Do NOT punish your kids once they have calmed down. They need praise for calming down and encouragement that they can probably calm down even quicker next time.
*my son (age 6) can get stuck in a meltdown/violent attack, and I want to share a quick story. Yesterday on a drive home, my son started to melt down, because I said no to going on a walk. As I drove, he hurled a large blue ice block at my face, then a second one, also a direct hit. I quickly pulled the car over, and I was desperate to calm him down. After what seemed forever as my face and ear throbbed in pain… I tried repeating “I love you, I love you, you are safe” as I blocked his hits and tried to keep him out of the front seat… and my son went from being violent towards me to weeping on the floor. Meeting his anger and violence with love quickly melted his aggression… it was really amazing to witness. In the future, I will be experimenting with this and also be sure to NOT keep large heavy objects next to him in the back seat of the car.
What everyone needs to know about BIG EMOTIONS
- Big Emotions are NOT bad. Emotions are normal, and they are your body/mind’s way of communicating something.
- Everyone has BIG EMOTIONS.
- Feelings do NOT need limits and boundaries…. but behavior definitely does.
- NOT everyone deals with them in a health way. Even adults develop unhealthy coping strategies like comfort eating, drinking, smoking, etc.
- It takes practice. Practice when you are calm and when you are not calm.
- The more you model good coping strategies for BIG EMOTIONS, the better your kids can learn from your example.
Be gentle with yourself and your kids as you learn to step into a deeper place of feeling and managing those BIG EMOTIONS. You CAN do this!
Lots of Light,
Candice T. Aguirre is the author of Yawning Yawning, Time for Bed a magical nighttime social story sharing love and values while teaching the bedtime routine. Read or sing to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star and insert your own values and bits of wisdom along the way. A great way to make a big impression on your children at a very magical time… that is… right as they relax to fall asleep and their brain waves change, allowing them to absorb what you tell them on a very deep level for learning that lasts.