Feelings: they make life worthwhile. They make life interesting. They make life, er, complicated at times. No matter if we view feelings as a friend or as a foe, we will all have to deal with them. Yes, we all have feelings...but for some of us, the way we handle them can get us into some pretty tough spots.
It can be the same way for kids. Particularly for kids who experience their emotions in an intense way. The beauty of it all, as I see it, is that we can help our kids manage over-the-top feelings. When we do this, we give them a gift that lasts a lifetime.
Feelings Just Are
An important thing to bear in mind when it comes to feelings is that no one feeling is either good or bad. Feelings just are. They are what they are. The degree to which we feel our feelings differs: some of us feel our feelings in a BIG way, and our feelings are amplified to great proportions. For others of us, our feelings are there just the same, but they seem barely perceptible to bystanders. We can thank our temperament, in part, for this!
Do You Parent a Kid with Over-the-Top Feelings
If you parent a child with over-the-top feelings, nobody has to tell you just how out of control things can seem to get sometimes. You may be one of those parents who puts in the equivalent of an 8 hour day (dealing with the hijacked emotions of your child), before you even leave for the office (I know some of you are nodding "yes" to this). It can be challenging, for sure, but helping even the most intense of kids can be accomplished. It will take time. It will take patience, but it can be done. And it will make a world of difference to the child.
Responding Effectively to Intense Feelings in Kids
Here are a few tips that can help you help your child:
1. Maintain Your Own Composure
When a child is falling apart at the seams, it can be difficult to maintain your own composure, but in order to help your child, this is exactly what you must do. Breathe. Imagine yourself staying calm. Imagine yourself at peace. Imagine that your child is reaching out her hand to you for help. Imagine yourself in her corner. BE THERE FOR HER. Punishing her for strong feelings that she is ill-equipped to manage accomplishes nothing.
2. Handing it Over
When your child is melting down, maybe screaming at you and telling you how terrible you are, how you're a dummy-head, doody-downer, poopie pants or any other creative term she can come up with, it is your job to look beyond the words and recognize that your child is in distress and is handing the problem over to you for help. It won't look that way to you, perhaps, but it is what is happening.
3. Shift Your Perspective
When you recognize that your child isn't going out of her way to make your life miserable, and that she wants to successfully manage her BIG feelings, but just doesn't yet have the skill or emotional maturity to do so, you'll have a much better chance of managing your own emotional fallout. Don't personalize. Your child cannot push your buttons if you don't let her. (Nor can anyone else, for that matter!)
4. Be Large and In Charge (of yourself, that is)
Focus on the fact that the only control you have is control of yourself. You cannot control your child or her behaviors. You can only control how you respond AND what you choose to teach her about becoming more capable in handling her own upset feelings. What do you want her to learn? Being "large and in charge" of your emotions is one big step towards modeling self-control, and showing her what she will one day look like when she accomplishes this task. If you need a visual to help yourself keep control, check this out.
6. Provide Healthier Outlets
Offer your child healthier outlets for her BIG feelings, which won't hurt herself, property or anyone else. When you recognize that E-motion is "Energy in Motion", you can begin to appreciate the need for that upset, angry, worry, anxiety or other emotion to be expressed. If you need some help in figuring out some ways to do this check here.
7. Opportune Moments
Be sure to try to reach and teach your child during moments of peace and calm. Not much new learning takes place when the brain is in defensive mode. Our Feelings Fun workbook can help your help your child talk about, process and problem-solve about BIG feelings. Download it here!