I recently had a conversation with a mother who was worried that her son was experiencing “BIG EMOTIONS”. Her worry was that these “Big Emotions” or reactions might not be appropriate to the actual circumstance.
This made me think about this perception we have about EMOTIONS in general. Are they too much at times? Is the concern that having BIG EMOTIONS is a “bad thing” and something that is perceived overall as negative? Do we judge ourselves for having too much emotion, or others when we see it? And do we even react when someone has very little emotion or reaction to something?
This begs the question? What is it about EMOTIONS that make us so uncomfortable? And in particular when we SEE it in our children?
I know BIG EMOTIONS well. I live in a big emotional household. I am married to an Italian man who loves to use the phrase, “I’m not angry, I’m just Italian” He is loud, emotional and boisterous. As well as highly sensitive.
My daughter is a deep thinker & a deep feeler which can often make her willful, reactive and prone to big feelings and tears.
I too am a deep thinker, highly sensitive and have big reactions & emotions to many things in my universe. Plus, I’m highly inquisitive…I ask a lot of questions which can drive my family crazy. PARENT COACH IN DA HOUSE!
So, our merry band of three can make a lot of noise sharing our BIG EMOTIONS! Let the games begin…
My daughter and I are definitely butting heads during these teen years…she being a determined, willful and fiercely independent child can be tough at times. She likes to push against most of my input with a contrary opinion, action or YES, Emotion.
It isn’t always fun, it isn’t always easy, but boy her emotions have taught me so much about her. And our BIG EMOTIONS household, well, we’re still a work in progress…but I think what we’ve learned is we’re certainly not shy to express ourselves.
BIG EMOTIONS aren’t to be feared, they’re merely information about what is going on inside ourselves at different times.
So, how do we use these BIG EMOTIONS in our kids to learn something about them and to help them sort through & identify their feelings?
One of the greatest gifts a parent can give a child is the ability to handle intense emotions, disappointment, sadness, anger, fear, excitement & happiness in healthy ways.
Here are a few tips:
SELF REGULATION is the key. When children are able to regulate their emotional responses, they become less vulnerable to the impact of stress. They are also more likely to maintain healthy friendships and the capacity to focus and learn.
- Every outburst is an opportunity to steer them in a different direction and to allow them to name the emotions they are feeling. Ie. “You look sad right now”, Or, “I can tell you look mad”
- Separate Feelings from Behavior – It’s important for children to learn how to express their emotions, but it’s not ok to have a temper tantrum in the grocery store. Validate emotion first, then redirect behavior.
- Validate & Relate – Don’t minimize a child’s feelings by saying, “Stop being so upset”. Try “I know you’re upset because we’re not going to the park to meet your friends”. I know that’s disappointing.
- Show Acceptance – Kids need to learn to recognize and deal with what they are experiencing. Feeling “seen” by a parent & other caregivers can really help with acceptance.
- Teach Emotional Regulation
- Practice Deep Breathing (not just when emotions are high, but when they are calm too)
- Count to calm – ask them to start counting down numbers, or ask them to count different objects they see in a room
- Take a break – suggest your child walk away from an activity, have a brief moment of escape, drink a glass of water
- Create a calm down kit – sensory toys, coloring books, picture books or any age appropriate activities that can give your child a sense of calm
- Problem Solve with your Child – ask them for their input or ideas on how to solve the problem (age specific)
If you, or your kids are experiencing BIG EMOTIONS & CHALLENGING BEHAVIORS in your household, reach out for support. We all have blind spots, triggers & stressors that are hard to see while we’re in a struggle with our kids. Parent Coaching can help you build a stronger relationship with your child and feel more relaxed and confident in your parenting decisions.
If you or anyone you know could use this kind of support, please have them reach out.