It’s often challenging to parents to respond to their children when they show extreme emotions of anger, frustration or fear. Some parents immediately just tell their child to “Stop crying” or “Calm down and don’t scream.” That is dismissing, disregarding and invalidating how your child feels.
Instead of shutting your children’s emotions down parents have an important role in helping children to understand and deal with their emotions. Walking your child through an emotional outburst can be an effective way for your child to learn to have greater control of those emotions.
So, what exactly do you do when your child is having a “meltdown?”
First, ask your child what they are feeling right now. What emotion? If they don’t express themselves then you might suggest certain emotions they may be experiencing. “Are you angry?” “Are you sad?” Children usually calm down if they feel they are being heard and that you’re not trying to fix them.
Then you might ask why they are feeling that way. This often helps the child understand what leads to this emotion.
Then you might say, “How could you handle this situation?” “Do you need my help?”
Children can be taught that emotions are a natural part of being human and that everybody experiences some kinds of emotions. Helping your children to deal with their emotions empowers them to better understand themselves and the situations around them. It also helps them to regulate their emotions and to soothe themselves.
As parents, don’t give up if this process doesn’t work as smoothly as you would like. Stick with it and continue practicing and eventually you will be pleasantly surprised at the progress.