Elements of a Confident Kid…Managing Emotions
About Managing Emotions:
What happens when one family member loses his or her temper or anxiety overwhelms him? How does he or she deal with it? How does it impact those around them? Fear, anxiety and anger consume us at varying intervals. For some, it may be daily. Others may go months without the feeling that they are losing control. But whether it’s a regular occurrence or not, it happens to us all. Parents of confident kids prepare them with a plan for how they can respond to constructively express their emotions, calm down and do no harm in the process. Most adults need practice in managing their emotions so certainly children need guidance in this area. And fortunately, there are numerous ways you can help children learn to manage their emotions.
This ability to self-regulate has been shown to be a powerful skill that not only impacts a family’s sense of well-being but has a direct impact on academic performance and the achievement of goals later in life. To learn more about the importance of self-regulation, check out this recent video from PBS.
Promoting Emotions Management:
Since modeling is one of the top ways children learn social and emotional behaviors at home, how can you model constructively managing your own emotions?
1. Make a plan. Decide on how you can deal with your anger in ways that won’t harm others and will help you a.) get it out and b.) calm down. My plan, for example, is to say “Mommy needs five minutes.” I walk to my favorite chair in my bedroom. I have a journal and pen secured near in case writing helps. I sit and breathe. After calming down a bit, if I am angry about something my son did, I think “What would be the logical consequence for his behavior?” I make a plan before I leave my chair so that I am ready when I return.
2. Communicate your plan. Prepare your family for what you are going to do in advance. Pick a time when you are all together and not upset. Let them know your plan for the next time you are angry.
3. Practice and remind. If you communicate your plan but don’t do it, consider planting a reminder somewhere for yourself. Do you need a note on the refrigerator? What will help you remember to remove yourself from the situation when feeling overwhelmed? Make the reminder a part of your plan.
Just these steps you take to model the constructive managing of emotions can provide the best teaching possible for your children. They will watch, observe and be able to replicate what you are doing. What a powerful gift of resilience that will keep on giving throughout their lives when they come upon circumstances and feelings that threaten to take them over?
You can provide coaching to your child to help them communicate what they are feeling and manage it in a constructive way. Use feeling words often to make it a common part of your family language. “You seem disappointed. Did something happen at school today?” We often need to consciously use feeling language since it is not a habit for most of us. Often children without a strong feelings vocabulary grow increasingly more frustrated when upset because of their inability to adequately communicate what they are feeling (this is true throughout childhood not just with young children). Ask whether your read on their emotions is correct and you will begin to expand your child’s ability to effectively communicate her feelings. The University of California Children’s Center offers a list of feeling words for children. Post this page in a place where both you and your child can access and refer to it.
How can your child express her anger verbally in a way that is acceptable to you and other family members? Or perhaps, your child is more physical and less verbal. How can he express himself physically when he is angry? Could she roar like a lion? Could he pound on pillows? Finding a comfortable and natural expression for each child and practicing it with them will prepare them for those overwhelming moments. When they are taken over by anger, you can remind them, “Remember your roar?’ They can express themselves without causing hurt or harm.
Create a Safe, Caring Environment
Work on setting up a safe space for your child’s cool down. Maybe they are comfortable going to their room or a corner of the basement. In that space, provide comforting supports. Have a pillow or soft blanket there always at the ready. Maybe they would like a stuffed friend, a journal to write in or crayons to color with? Setting up this space with your child will let them know that there is a place where they can cry, be angry and also cool down where they will not be disturbed but will be understood.
Being proactive about how you will manage emotions and prepare your child for managing her emotions can create a safer, more caring family environment. Members do not have the worry that one may cause harm because all have agreed upon a plan. The benefits of cultivating the skill of self-regulation extend far beyond the comfort of today into a growthful pattern for your child’s future.
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