Sunday, March 6, 2016

Emotions - the non verbal comunicator part 1

So many preschoolers go through so many emotions. They can be in a fit of giggles, and fall down into a storm of tears and all in a matter of a few minutes. What can we do as parents to help them through this stage of life? Yes, I said what can WE do to help THEM. You're the adult, so hopefully you have already learned how to handle your own emotions, or have you?

Take some time to watch your child closely one day. What and even record all the emotions they go through in one day, you will be amazed on how many different conflicting emotions they go through in one simple day. As adults, we have hard times dealing with our own emotions, but children haven't learned how to identify all their feelings yet. It may be difficult to talk about their emotions and children at this age haven't learned how to cope with them. It doesn't' help when adults tell children they shouldn't feel that way. Have you heard yourself say,
 "Settle down."
"Quit acting like a baby."
"Stop it!"
"Be quiet, don't' act like that."

What does the child hear? It could be interpreted as,
"Don't feel like that!"
"Don't show your anger."

So what's a better way for adults to help little ones control their emotions?
Here are something to think about...

Isn't it nice to know someone understands you and hears you, especially when you are upset? Adults can create this open, trusting relationship by doing a few adjustments to how we respond to children.
When we hear little Jonny melting down and saying,
"I hate you!", or he throws a toy, and shouts, "I don't like playing with you!"

We as adults can see his physical reactions, his words are letting us know how he feels. We detect that he is angry and frustrated and clearly has no idea on how to handle this. So instead of saying,
"Jonny! Don't' talk like that!"
Parents can identify with his feelings and validate them and then give him information and ideas on what he should do.

For instance it may be more helpful to say,
"I can see your pretty angry and frustrated. I can't let you throw your toy, let's find another way to express your feelings that doesn't hurt anyone."

As a mom of 3 boys, I've had to be pretty inventive on teaching my boys how to express anger. We've gone outside for quick runs, screamed in pillows, pounded on playdough, jumped on our indoor personal trampoline (we have gone through 3 of them in 6 years), pounded fists into mattresses etc.

Most times, just a firm hug has my boys collapse into tears, letting out their emotions safely and bonding us as well.

It maybe hard to hug the 'unhuggable.' But it is all the more necessary to show love to a child who is hurting, even if the hurt comes as anger. You know your child and through trial and error, you will find out what each child needs to calm their anger.
Once they calm down, you can teach them what to say and do next time they feel this emotion. Sometimes picture symbols of what to do can help, especially with boys, as they are more visually inclined than girls, in general.

Sometimes parents feel bad, when they made a decision that sets the child off into a tantrum. Parents fear they will be judged for having a child who is creating a scene in public, therefore parents threaten, bargain, beg, yell, spank, or worse, give into the demands. By setting boundaries and validating the feelings, but stick to their word,they are stronger parents and they keep the child's self esteem and dignity intact.

I found validating feelings are the most effective way to calm a child's outburst. You can say,

"You look frustrated. I know you really wanted candy, after lunch, we can look at snacks."
"I see you're sad, when he's done playing with that toy, you can have a turn, I know it's hard to wait."
"You are sad to leave grandmas, I bet you can't wait to come back."
"I can see you're angry about leaving the park, we can come again tomorrow. Do you need a hug?"

By validating feelings, your not giving in to the demands. By actively listening and guessing at their emotions your not allowing the misbehaviour, but your sticking to your word. Children will respect your word and learn that you mean what you say and say what you mean. This will be invaluable to you as they grow older.

Don't worry so much about if your child is melting down in public, most likely your around other parents. I'll bet you thousands of dollars, it has happened to them at some or other in their lives with their own children. Most people are pretty empathetic; and who knows; maybe you can be the one who shows them how best to deal with a meltdown toddler.

I remember one time, my three year old was yelling at me in the supermarket and I picked him up, as he was yelling and wiggling, I said, "It's time to go, we will try again later." I left the cart of half filled groceries. As I was leaving the store, some random lady said to me,
"Your doing a good job mom."
I sheepishly smiled and said. "thank you," but tears started brewing and my throat got all choked up. I rushed to the car, placed my now crying child in his seat and cried a bit myself. It meant so much to hear that small support from her, like she knew what I was feeling. By the time we go home, he fell asleep and I felt better. We all need empathy sometime.

The milk was not bought that day - and we all survived.

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