How to Respond to Your Child’s Emotional Crisis and Help Him Grow

Doesn’t it surprise you how seemingly random things can drive our children to complete emotional collapse? In the heat of the moment, emotions run high among us, parents. So what’s the best way to cool things down and help your child learn to manage their emotions?

This post was originally published on A Fine Parent .

It doesn’t matter if the child is 4 or 14 years old. In the moments before the collapse, it gives out a wrinkled face. In body language, everything is open, open and very personal. A clear signal that your child is very sad and needs your help to cope with the rush of unbearable feelings. How do you help them while keeping a cool head, and perhaps even teach them a long-term lesson about emotion?

Last weekend, my four-year-old son went crazy because his older sister had a bag to take to the park and he didn’t. His suffering was palpable. Vivid emotions on his face. His small body tensed with grief.

It took a lot of composure for me to suppress my own growing discomfort due to his apparent frustration over something so trivial from an adult point of view. With an effort, I remained calm , held him close to me and loved the whole moment.

We found another bag. He was fine. And yet he was not.

The bag was random. The next day, I realized that the whole episode was actually about his soon return to school after the holidays. He was scared. He felt out of control. The bag withstood the brunt of these emotions.

I was grateful for not calling his outburst ridiculous and petty. More luck than judgment, I admit. And it got me thinking.

How we respond to a sad child and the emotional breakdowns that inevitably occur over the years of growing up lays the foundation for the development of their emotional intelligence . This will affect how they perceive and manage their feelings and the feelings of others throughout their lives.

But as with most parenting, there are no absolute rules about emotion. However, with a little foresight, we can be prepared for them to explode, and this explosion will shake our world.

After some initial awkwardness, I found that this 5-point action plan helps me to nurturingly respond to my kids’ emotional breakdowns.

1. Put on the oxygen mask first.

Do you know how, during a flight, a safety announcement encourages you to deal with your air supply before helping others? The same is true for effectively raising a sad child in relapse mode.

As parents, it is our responsibility to ensure that our children learn to manage their sea of ​​emotions . And we will not be able to do this until we put things in order in our own house. Of course, when faced with an upset child, this is easier said than done.

For example, when my husband was away a few weeks ago, I was under intense pressure. The children have been displaced. I ran a house, two businesses, my children. I ran on empty. My little son noticed that my condition was becoming more and more restless and tried his best to get my attention.

At 10:00 pm on the sixth day, I was wearily covering my frozen supper when my son screamed out of bed for the seventh time. He needed a drink. Again. And with my mom’s energy depleted, I had very little to give.

I went upstairs and fluently moved my sobbing baby from bed to bathroom, from bathroom to bed, like an automaton. He didn’t deserve such a cold reaction, but I was exhausted.

I spent the rest of the evening in a terrible state and wondered how I could / should have responded differently at that moment.

In fact, my son said the following:

“Mommy, it’s hard for me to get settled tonight. I do not know why. I just know that I need you. Currently. Please come and love me, hug me and remind me once again that you are here. “

But in my own emotionally drained state, I didn’t hear it. We don’t always calm down. But that’s just the point. Simply recognizing and acknowledging this fact may be enough to help us act the next time for our child.

Pause. Breathe. And only then act.

When a similar situation arose the next night, I stopped at the bottom step and counted to ten. The mother’s compassion was still there; it just took a little time to find.

Like the aforementioned crew members, they know they need to stay calm in a crisis. They know that individual emotional responses can be curbed through calmness. Therefore, in emergencies, they resort to practiced exercises to keep their heads level, and then use their calmness to help us control our feelings. And by doing so, they protect us all.

When we understand this for ourselves, we can regulate our feelings. Not by driving them into a confined space where they are suppressed, but by allowing yourself to objectively examine them – before formulating an answer.

So the next time you feel the melt seething, breathe some air . Clear your head to create a space in which emotional order can be set in motion.

2. Accept a range of emotions.

Our role as parents is not to judge a child’s emotions. This should help them recognize, accept and understand these feelings as they are. And then give them the tools to manage and learn from them. All emotions are real, all are real, and they are all very strongly experienced by our children.

Child expert Janet Lansbury has a great phrase that sums it up: “Our perception of our children’s behavior will always determine our response.”

If we perceive our child’s emotional breakdown as annoyance, our reaction is likely to be annoyance. Or worse, a reprimand. When we tell our crying baby to pull himself together, we are sending a signal to suppress such feelings. If we do our best to deal with their emotions at all, preferring to distance ourselves from our child, we create a fear of abandonment.

These reactions only serve to establish distance between the child and his emotions and can destroy the bond between parent and child.

Children love to be liked. They yearn for our recognition. They need to know that we love and appreciate them, no matter what emotions they are facing at the moment. And in this way, we also help them open the door to self-acceptance. When my children are sad, angry, or discouraged, I try to first accept and acknowledge how they are feeling.

Making the decision to accept all the shades of your child’s emotions can help improve the situation.

3. Remember that emotions are like onions.

It’s easy to pinpoint an emotion and take it at face value: “My child is sad because my dad is not there. I will hug him and calm him down. He will get better. ” But emotions are rarely so simple.

My boy was sad because his father was absent last week. But the feelings he showed went beyond mere sadness. He needed to fry a much larger fish.

For our mutual appreciation, the following were presented:

  • Feeling of abandonment: “Daddy left me.”
  • Possible glimpses of mortality estimates: “If dad is gone, maybe he’s dead?”
  • His fear of cause and effect: “Daddy left because of what I did?”

It would be easy for parents if these problems arose from quiet conversation and a good cup of coffee, but my son is four years old and has few conversational skills. Yet his emotions remained in place, complex and multi-layered.

As he played, I began to better understand how he felt:

  • Refusal, manifested as a need for constant reassurance. And reluctance to go to bed with one particularly memorable attack of screaming.
  • Mortality: He had endless questions about death, heaven, and other places where dad might be.
  • Cause and Effect: There was a high degree of limit checking, such as throwing things (at his sister), hitting, biting and kicking (at me). He knows that these actions are unacceptable, but for a while he seemed to have lost all impulsive control.

At first he gave little, but the enactment intensified. I didn’t feel particularly smart at the time, but the emotional part was nailed down. Then I started thinking more logically. I quickly realized that he needed to reinforce normal boundaries to make him feel safe. It worked.

When your child is acting out, take a moment to remind yourself that emotions are difficult. Beneath the top layers of sadness, anger and disappointment lie a whole bunch of other layers, each more difficult to cleanse, each bringing fresh tears. Just remembering that our children’s emotional breakdown can be as difficult as our own emotional outbursts will help us stay calm and help our children deal with their emotions more effectively .

4. Be an emotional anchor for them.

Feelings of sadness, anger, and fear can be overwhelming for a child. This desperate openness on their faces in times of crisis requires limits and boundaries. For a strong anchor that does not allow them to go with the flow in the sea of ​​overwhelming emotions.

Our role as parents is to create a safe space in which our children can express their feelings. And, importantly, guide them towards acceptable ways to do it.

When your child is experiencing an emotional breakdown, try one of the following answers:

  • Be present: stay in the room. Place your hand gently on his shoulder or hug him. Everything they need. But be there. Don’t go away. You are their safety net.
  • Be flexible: Your child may resist your help, physically or verbally. This is fine. When my son tells me to leave, he doesn’t really mean it. In his case, he meant, “I need to see if you love me enough to stay.”
  • Speak Verbally : Give your child words to express your feelings while acknowledging them: “ I see that you are a SLAVE right now. You are EVIL because I said you cannot eat sweets ” ; “ You are a SAD because our dog died. It hurts inside and I want to cry ”;It’s ANNOYING when you don’t have a pen on the wall, I can see it drives you crazy.”
  • Suggest alternatives . Telling a child to stop physically is one thing, but he needs to do something about that emotion. So provide them with alternatives. This brings us neatly to the final point of our action plan.

5. Help them create a personalized set of tools for working with emotions.

Over the past seven years as a parent, I have discovered five effective tools I can give my children to help them manage their emotional world. These instruments travel with them in their toolbox of emotions. As they grow, they slowly learn which one to pull out in a given situation.

The important thing is that everything is in control of the child:

  1. Teach them to recognize themselves: Offer a simple personal mantra to make them feel safe . “I am safe, I am strong, I am loved.” Work with your child to find words that work for them.
  2. Find a physically safe place: Children must find a place where they can safely express their thoughts. This was especially effective with my son. He completely independently chose a spot behind the floor-to-ceiling curtain in our hall as his secluded spot. I know when he gets there, he has something to do with something.
  3. Choose a personal emotional outlet : hitting a pillow, talking to a teddy bear, running really fast, listening to music – the first of these things has been a huge benefit for my daughter. For a time, when she was little, her nervous breakdown consisted of uncontrollable crying without physical expression. I advised her to hit the pillow at times like this. He worked miracles, releasing the accumulated energy that crying alone could not release.
  4. Find a Little Happy : To get rid of strong emotions, I teach my children to create happy moments for themselves by doing what they enjoy. It is an effective way to restore emotional balance. Coloring works well for my daughter; for my son it is a work with Duplo. There is no right or wrong here, only what works for your child.
  5. Satisfy feelings : when emotions accumulate, it can help to speed up their release; a sad child may want to repeatedly watch the scene in Bambi where his mother dies, or an angry child may find solace by building and then destroying a wooden tower, and so on. Remember that your child may prefer some activities over others. My girl loves to talk, watch and listen, and my boy prefers to play. What stereotypes!

It is too late to expect a collapse. Practice putting things in perspective and avoiding panic attacks – your child with strong emotions does not need emergency medical attention. Your calmness will show them the way through everything they feel.

How to Respond to an Emotional Crisis to Raise Strong Children | Good parent


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