Parents Help Children Cope with Strong Feelings
When her one-year-old daughter began screaming in a store and threw herself on the floor, “at first, I felt embarrassed,” recalls Los Angeles mom Nancy DeLeon Meeker. “[Then] I realized the priority was my daughter’s well-being. Rather than getting mad at her because I felt embarrassed, I just sat on the floor with her and supported her, saying, ‘I know this is really hard. You’re frustrated and you want to leave.’”
Parents and educators share strategies for staying connected with children who are struggling with strong emotions—and helping children learn to cope with these difficult feelings.
Shift your perception
A meltdown is a child’s way of saying, “‘I’m overwhelmed! I have to release some feelings before I can deal with the situation,’” says Patricia Wipfler, a mother and director of Hand in Hand in Palo Alto.
When we realize meltdowns are normal, Wipfler adds, it’s easier to help children through the experience—“all that needs to happen is the parent being close and offering kindness until the child [is ready to do] something else.”
The term “tantrum” implies a child is purposely misbehaving, adds Marguerite Wright, mother of four and psychologist at Oakland’s Children’s Hospital. Shifting our language allows us to see these experiences as “panic attacks,” when a child doesn’t know how else to deal with their feelings, she adds.
Meeker’s family is from Guatemala and she says the culture she grew up in saw tantrums as a sign of disrespect, something that got children a spanking. “[Spanking] is all my dad knew, and that’s why I took [parenting] classes, to learn something different.”
“Staying connected [when my daughter has strong emotions] allows her to learn to deal with her feelings and helps me understand my child more,” Meeker adds. “And at three, [my daughter] asks for space instead of expressing herself through a push. She can tell us what’s going on with her—and that gives us a chance to support and maybe even help her. Many [adults] have trouble doing this! This process takes longer, but it’s worth it.”
Reprinted with the permission of the Action Alliance for Children.
Add your own comment
- Kindergarten Sight Words List
- The Five Warning Signs of Asperger's Syndrome
- First Grade Sight Words List
- Graduation Inspiration: Top 10 Graduation Quotes
- 10 Fun Activities for Children with Autism
- What Makes a School Effective?
- Child Development Theories
- Should Your Child Be Held Back a Grade? Know Your Rights
- Why is Play Important? Social and Emotional Development, Physical Development, Creative Development
- Smart Parenting During and After Divorce: Introducing Your Child to Your New Partner