Anger, frustration, sadness and feelings of that nature are just a part of being human. As a parent, you want more than anything to protect your child from having to feel these emotions. The best thing you can do is teach your child that it’s okay to feel badly sometimes and that they can work through bad days in a healthy way.
We spoke to Before and After School Coordinators Sam Penney and Brooke Hyatt about some tips you can use the next time your child has a bad day.
Validate the feeling
The first thing that’s important for you and your child to know is that all emotions are valid ones. “It’s not the feeling that we have trouble with,” says Sam, “it’s the way it’s being expressed.” During times of emotional crisis, you may find that your child has a rough time expressing what they feel or why they feel that way amongst the tears. Nevertheless, it helps to address the situation knowing that no matter what your child is feeling or why, there is a perfectly valid reason for it.
When your child is in the midst of experiencing some negative emotions, Brooke says that it’s important to remember to, “have your face set very calmly, your body language very open, go down to the child’s level and be present and ready for that child.” No matter how young your child may be, they’ll respond more positively to your offering to help if you aren’t displaying signs of stress yourself. If your child is old enough to express themselves verbally, Brooke says to, “ask the child to come to you when they’re ready.”
This tip specifically pertains to the first time you talk to your child about their emotional expression. However, the concept of patience holds true no matter what stage you and your child are at. “It’s a biological fact that a child can’t hear you as well when they’re feeling stressed out.” says Brooke. It’s true – when a child’s senses are on high alert, they become overwhelmed. Their minds are busy trying to sort through the events that just upset them. They will temporarily be unable to process new information as well as they normally do. “Take this time to let them regulate a little on their own, and then as they’re coming down give them that physical contact if you can – like hugs or a little cuddle.” Once your little one is calm, you can begin to reflect on what happened and what you can do as a team to fix it.
Lead by example
We know that children learn by example. So, the next time you’re feeling angry, or frustrated, or sad, be sure to take stock of how you are displaying these emotions. Little eyes are always watching. Sam says, “Being able to show the children that it’s okay to express sadness, anger, guilt, frustration – but in a healthy and appropriate manner, is a huge help!”
Until next time,