Continue to help your kids manage their emotions with these tips.
WORDS DR NICOLA DAVIES
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.
1. Accept Emotions, Even the Negatives!
Teach your child that all emotions are a normal part of human nature, and it is okay to feel them; however, it’s not always acceptable to act out all of our emotions. How we react to emotions is very important as it guides us through life. We have no choice in what we feel, but we can choose to act appropriately.
Empathise with the emotions they are feeling by recognising the emotion and taking the time to explain it – ‘you are frustrated because you want to stay at the swimming pool longer.’ Allowing your child to be comfortable with a feeling, to feel it and to let it go, gives them a sense of control.
2. Do Not Punish
Even a very disciplined child will throw a temper tantrum from time to time, putting even the most patient parent to the test.
During a full-scale tantrum, no amount of reasoning will help,
as the child cannot access rational thoughts at that time.
Resist the urge to punish the child as it creates even more negative emotion. However, don’t allow the child to damage things or hurt others; in such cases, a timeout to cool down is required immediately. Stay calm and sit with the child for support.
3. Guide Appropriate Responses
Once an emotion is identified, help the child to form appropriate responses through problem-solving techniques. Brainstorm solutions together, let the child make choices and evaluate afterwards how it turned out. Anger is very often a manifestation of frustration and it helps to give the child a choice of responses, as it gives them a feeling of being in control during a time when the negative emotion has caused a sense of being out of control. For example, if your child refuses to stop whining, you can tell them ‘you have two choices; you can eat the nice meal Mummy made for you, or you can sit quietly so that we can eat our meal.’
Help your child to release any negative emotions by providing tools to deal with anxiety, such as stress balls, fidget spinners, or calming glitter bottles. You may need some trial and error to see what works for your child. Sometimes, letting them ‘walk it off’ is all that is needed.
4. Acknowledge Your Child Empathising with Their Own and Other’s Emotions
Take extra care to praise your child when they verbalise emotions and when they react appropriately to their emotions, as it will positively reinforce good behaviour when under emotional stress. Praise also strengthens the child’s sense of self and accomplishment. Rewards such as gold stars or treats (behaviour modification) are not a good idea as it defeats the object of teaching internal regulation of emotions. Rather, practice different scenarios with your child when the opportunity arises.
Encourage your child to help others where possible, to be kind to other children and animals.
If you observe your child hugging another child who is upset or crying, or offering to share toys
or a snack, tell your child that they have been kind and you are proud of their behaviour.
Most importantly, don’t turn learning about emotions into a chore – make it fun, and part of everyday activities! Helping your child handle their emotions will be one of the best things you can do for them now and for their future.