Anger and frustration – it’s time to help your kids manage their emotions.
WORDS DR NICOLA DAVIES
Hardly a day goes by that we don’t experience a range of emotions, from extreme disappointment or anger to elation or relief. Children experience these same emotions from a very young age but are often not able to identify the emotion nor name it. As a result, they can become bewildered very quickly and act out, as they have no other mechanism for dealing with intense emotions. Parents often react to these emotional outbursts by punishing, which will shame the child and create emotional stumbling blocks later in life. Children need to learn to regulate their emotions, starting at a young age, to give them the confidence they need to be in control of themselves when venturing into the world. This is where emotional coaching can help.
Emotional coaching is based on empathising with the feeling being experienced and guiding the appropriate response to that feeling. Here are some tips to help you coach your child to regulate their emotions:
1. Set a Positive Example
Children learn mostly from observation and will copy parents from a very young age. If you are struggling to control your emotions when upset, frustrated or angry, your children will follow your lead. In the Singaporean culture, it is not usual for people to show strong emotions – it is a very polite and genteel culture, which makes it even more important for parents to help children work through their emotions so that they don’t bottle up negativity.
Singaporeans are very structured and disciplined, thus by the time a child enters primary school, they will be well versed in emotionally acceptable behaviour in their society. There are several preschool programmes to assist children to control their emotions. Make sure your child understands the underlying reasons for their behaviour. Whilst it may not be second nature for you to talk about your own feelings, it can help your child understand their own feelings better.
2. Connect with Your Child to Develop a Sense of Self
A deep, nurturing connection with your child is paramount to feeling safe and secure. This forms the basis of their emotional platform and allows them to keep developing their emotional skills as they venture into ‘big school’ territory.
Hug your child when they get upset and let them calm down
with your support. Praise any new tasks the child has mastered,
to develop a sense of self-awareness, and support them with those
that they are struggling with, without criticism.
Encourage independence as much as possible. However, if your child becomes upset, misbehaves, or throws a temper tantrum, you need to be supportive as well so that the child feels safe and loved. Younger children will often test boundaries by misbehaving to see how far they can go – think carefully about changes in your environment or routines to figure out why your child is not feeling safe.
3. Allow Your Child Privacy to Develop Respect
Everyone, even young children, have a need for privacy – make sure that your child has a space for toys, clothes, and books, and allow them private time and time to play and then clean up when play is done. This teaches a child how to behave in a respectful environment – respecting themselves and others, as well as their own belongings and that of others, assists with laying a foundation for respecting emotions in themselves and others.
4. Understanding Emotions
Name the emotions in your conversations until your child builds up an emotional vocabulary and can identify their own emotions. For example, ‘we are sad to say goodbye to granny’ or ‘you are feeling angry because your brother broke your toy.’ You can use cards with emoticons to help your child identify different emotions from facial expressions, or paint emotions on small round rocks.
Learn to see things from your child’s perspective,
even when it doesn’t make much sense to you.
Discuss how it makes them feel by asking questions such as ‘when you are scared, what feelings are in your body?’
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