Most adults experience intense emotions. In other words, keeping calm is not always easy. It’s the same for children too, who, like adults, experience big emotions. However, the intensity of those emotions and the response they trigger differ with each child, as every child is unique.
Previously we have spoken about how parents can teach children about different emotions and ways to help children make sense of their emotions. As we teach children how to deal with their emotions, it is important that parents also learn to keep their calm when their child has big emotions.
A book by Dr Laura Markham, Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting, lists a few tips that parents can use to stay calm when the child has a meltdown, which are helpful in the case of other big emotions too. These will help you deal with your own emotions so that you can be fully present for your child:
Acknowledge your own feelings. Some parents may panic when they see their child experiencing big, strong emotions. Seeing your child displaying raw emotions can be extremely uncomfortable. Acknowledging this panic and telling yourself that these feelings are okay is one way of keeping yourself calm.
Remember that it is not an emergency. Seeing your child upset can trigger many concerns and set off alarms. Reminding yourself that a child expressing big emotions is rarely an emergency or that it is not a threat right now can help you calm yourself. Telling yourself that you can handle an upset child will help you keep your cool.
Remind yourself that expressing feelings is a good thing. Whether the child expresses them or not, the child will feel these big emotions. Reminding yourself that it is okay for your child to have big emotions and express them can make you feel a lot calmer. It will take some time for you to reach a phase where you can warm-heartedly allow your child to express big, strong emotions that the child is feeling.
Take off the pressure. You do not have to fix the situation. Remind yourself that staying present when your child has big emotions is enough. The presence of a parent will help the child feel safer as the child feels and expresses big, intense emotions.
Take a deep breath and choose love. An upset child displaying strong emotions can be overwhelming. Take deep breaths and tell yourself that you are choosing love instead of fear. This works wonders. However, you can choose another mantra that you like such as ‘this too shall pass,’’I can handle it,’ etc.
Tolerate the emotion without taking action. Let yourself feel what you are feeling. You can act later once the emotion passes and calm down. Take deep breaths and try to name the emotion you are feeling. You can also notice how the emotion feels in your body. You can simply attempt to tolerate the emotion you are feeling when you see your child upset.
Seeing your child upset and experiencing such intense emotions is overwhelming for most parents and can bring out many emotions from your own childhood. Allowing your child to express big emotions and staying present throughout can make the child feel supported. Once the big emotions pass and the child cools down, parents can try talking to the child about the situation at hand.
What do you do when your child experiences big, strong emotions? How do you manage to keep your calm? Share your tips and suggestions with us in the comments below.
Markham, L. (2012). Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting. Retrieved March 22, 2021, from https://www.google.co.in/books/edition/_/EYQyoR-oqqAC
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