Children need to know their parent will love them unconditionally and that we understand their position, even if we do not approve of their actions or decisions. Knowing they live in a safe environment, where mistakes are part of the learning process is important to a child’s development and security. Kids have meltdowns and temper tantrums for many reasons (they are hungry, tired, needing to vent emotions, etc), and they make lots of sad choices as they begin to learn and understand the process of decision making.
When we respond to these situations with loving empathy, a child can:
- be soothed in knowing we understand and care
- feel safe and secure
- learn the importance of calm in stressful situations
- learn to regulate anxiety
- learn how to handle the big emotions in life with self-control
- reduce the release of stress hormones
Controlling our own big emotions shows our children how to develop self-control over their own emotions. How we respond is a choice and we need to teach our children ways to make wise choices in how they respond to big emotions. Children who experience long term stress from stressed out parents, have more trouble with their flight-or-fight instincts. When children are in a constant state of stress, they release more stress hormones and struggle managing the flight-or-fight state. When this is long term, children are more susceptible to disease, depressive and anxiety issues later in life.
Adults can experience anger when dealing with children, just as children experience anger when dealing with overwhelming parts of life. Allow your child to express their feelings, and if the child is young and does not have the words for what they are feeling, help them out. It is ok to feel sad and it is ok to get angry. It is ok to cry. Repressing emotions or burying our feelings is unhealthy. However, how the child handles these emotions is what is important, and this is an important teaching and growth opportunity for both kids and adults.
We can choose how we respond to our emotions, just as we choose how we respond to our children.
- Listen to what they have to say.
- Help them manage their emotions in a healthy manner.
The best way to do this is with modeling healthy emotional regulation ourselves. Kids look to their parents and other adults for cues on how to react and handle life.
Not only this, but empathy is a crucial aspect in developing the emotional intelligence of your children. When a child is upset, whether because things are not going their way, or they made a sad choice and have to deal with the consequences, their minds are in a state of chaos. Having an adult add to this chaos with anger or distance will not help the child create calm or deal with the situation in a healthy manner. As an adult, we need to help the child find calm instead of adding to the chaos. Using sincere empathy is an effective way to help the child manage his or her emotions, while also helping the adult to stay calm when we may also want to have our own meltdown, and modeling an effective method for dealing with emotions.
Speaking of grown-up meltdowns, sometimes when our kids press our buttons, keeping calm and cool can be extremely difficult. But we need to model healthy behavior to our kids. They will learn more from our actions than any lecture we will give. We can preach empathy and calm all we want, but if we do not model this behavior in front of our kids, they may never learn how to handle these situations. They are more likely to learn when we remain calm instead of yelling or responding with anger. Do not respond in a manner that may damage your relationship or models an unhealthy method of emotional self-control. If the situation has you near a grown-up meltdown, Love and Logic® teaches us to delay the consequences (read more at www.loveandlogic.com). Tell the child you are too upset to make a wise decision and need to take a break. Not only does this prevent a power struggle or the parent using anger which could damage the relationship, it models a healthy manner of dealing with anger.
- We need parents who model strength, emotional self-control and regulation, and empathy to their children so children can learn how to handle big emotions.
- Feeling anger, jealously, sadness, and other emotions is ok and normal. How we respond and control, without repressing, these emotions is what’s important.
- Listen to your child and help them effectively express emotions.
This blog is written as an educational and general resource only. It should not be a substitute for parenting or relational therapy, advice, or counseling with a professional therapist or medical doctor. Renewed Hope Parenting is not responsible for results or use of the information provided in these pages if you choose to use them. Everything included in this blog and website is copyrighted to Renewed Hope Parenting and may not be used without permission.