When I think back to when my kids were growing up, I remember having such a hard time managing their emotional outbursts. Like many parents I wanted certain behaviours to stop – yelling, slamming doors, and the one that really pushed my buttons, name-calling. Whenever my kids did these things out of anger or frustration, I found myself angry and frustrated with them. There were days when I felt like I was doing a terrible job at helping my kids manage their own stress and emotions. Have you been wondering what to do about your child or teen’s “temper tantrums,” “meltdowns,” “freak-outs” or “explosions?”
Here are some ways you can help your children learn to regulate their emotions:
- Provide as much stability and consistency as possible at home. This helps children develop the emotional resources to deal with the less predictable world outside.
- Accept your child’s emotions and responses. Children’s emotional outbursts are not deliberate attempts to make parenting difficult. “Tuning in” to understand your child’s emotions helps the child learn to cope with emotional tension.
- Talk about your own feelings. Modeling the use of language to identify feelings helps children to express their own emotions.
- Encourage children to talk about their feelings. All feelings are normal and natural. Avoid saying things like, “don’t be sad” or “You shouldn’t be angry.” It is always ok to talk about our feelings but it is not always ok to act on our feelings. The goal is to teach children to control their behaviour and not feelings. Encourage your child to label their feelings and listen carefully without judging or giving advice.
- Model self-control. Our children imitate our behaviours so it is important to reflect on how we handle our emotions. Instead of exploding you can say, “I’m getting frustrated, I better stop and calm down before I can continue.” Also, stay calm during your child’s emotional outburst.
- Teach how to use positive self-talk. Children who use negative self talk get angry more easily than children who use positive self talk. Teach children to practice positive self talk such as, “He didn’t do it on purpose, it was an accident” or “With more practice I’ll get it.”
- Work with your child to figure out which situations upset them the most and problem-solve different strategies together. Practicing how to handle a situation that makes them angry helps children learn to control their behaviour. You can review a problem that has recently occurred, label the emotions involved, and go over how your child might have handled the situation in a different way.
- Praise your child’s efforts to regulate their emotions. You may say, “You were patient while waiting for your brother.” You can also ask, “How did you do that?” so that both you and your child can learn what strategies helped in that situation.
Through reading, participating in parenting courses, support groups, trusting friends whose parenting I admired, and self-development, I learned about the skill and the art of connecting with my children. They are all in their adulthood now and I think that they would agree with me when I say that I still have a wonderful relationship with them all.
FYI, there is also a great book available at your local library called “Time-in Parenting: How to teach children emotional self-control, life skills, and problem solving by lending yourself and staying connected.” By: Otto Weininger, Ph.D; ISBN 0-9730905-0-2 Check it out!
Share your experience:
To share your experience, or to get more information about managing your child’s emotions, you can talk to one of us directly:
- Leave us a comment below – we’d love your feedback
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- Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Dial 311 or 905-825-6000 for parenting information or to speak directly to a Public Health Nurse every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
About this guest blogger:
Wendy Ziemiak, RN is a Mental Health Liaison Nurse who works with elementary school and high school students in Burlington. She also works at the walk-in Reach Out Centre For Kids (ROCK) in the Burlington location as part of the multi-disciplinary team.