In a previous post (you can find it here) we talked about providing good care to our kids in the midst of the harshness that comes with being quarantined in the middle of a global pandemic. The fact that we need "wins" and they need "wins."
During this time, we need to pay attention to our kids "road signs" - aka: their emotions. Emotions are not bad, they are directional road signs that give us insight into what is going on in those complex little hearts and minds. Of course the negative out of control emotions are not easy to deal with. In fact, they are what whittle us moms down from "thrivers" to "survivors."
We need tools to be able to engage the negative demands and emotions. If you take a moment to think about your childhood. How were negative emotions dealt with? Was it even acceptable to express your emotions whether good or bad? Were your parents even present enough to handle the emotions or did they just respond with anger and control? Maybe they responded out of a self pity attitude towards your emotions? Almost like your emotions were an attack to their parenting or their value as your parent, so they would become depressed or withdrawn. Maybe you come from a family that didn't have much parental direction (an apathetic home) so any emotional growth came primarily from your peers.
How we were raised to deal with our emotions, is how we typically deal with our kids emotions.
This can be really good if you come from a very loving, healthy family where emotions were met with a degree of acceptance and validation. But, if you were raised where emotions, feelings and needs were not met with acceptance and validation, then you may have a harder time navigating your kids emotions without the authoritarian/control dialogue.
There is always a need associated with a child's negative emotional outbursts.
Whether it's they need you attention, your love, a snack, a treat they saw at the checkout stand... there is always a need associated with their emotions, and those needs vary in weight. This is a topic that we can go down a serious rabbit hole on. For the sake of this post, I'm going to pause this thought and carry on with the topic at hand.
"How can we give good care to our kids in an already difficult time?"
We need to find "wins" We need to have a birds eye view into what triggers or exacerbates our kids when they are already frustrated. For instance, foods can affect our bodies in a positive or negative way. They can affect our "feelings." Our moods. It's how the chemistry in our bodies and brain accept and process certain foods. The serotonin affect. Your 'feel good' chemicals.
In the previous post I mentioned being on a walk with one of my daughters, who typically loves the outdoors. That day, that walk, there was nothing but negativity. Big Eeyore emotions. So we started a simple conversation about things make us feel different ways. It's a simple list, and simple questions that can be tailored to any age group.
HERE IS THE QUESTION LIST:
1- What colors do you think of, when you think of melancholy, like Eeyore. What colors make you feel like Eeyore?
(List the colors)
2- What activities make you feel like Eeyore? Or what activities make you feel angry?
(make a list)
3- What foods make you feel like Eeyore?
(make a list)
4- What colors do you think of, when you think of happy, like Tigger.
(List the colors)
5- What activities and things make you feel like Tigger? (happy)
(make a list)
6- What foods make you feel like Tigger? (happy)
(make a list)
The best way to do this is when they are in a good place and to do it together. Make a date out of it. The less distractions the better. I mean, you could just give them the list and have them fill it out quickly, but it will not be that effective in the long run.
This is a reconnaissance mission.
A highly effective tool. The more information you are able to gather, the better equipped you'll be at navigating. When it's already a hard day, you'll be able to stray away from or at least limit the foods and activities that make them angry, frustrated, and sad (aka: Eeyore.) Now, use your parent logic here. I'm not saying abort all healthy foods and allow them to eat donuts and ice cream while they play video games all day, but I am saying, when they are struggling, and they need a win, this is a simple tool to help pull them back from the dark side. It helps you find "wins" for them.
The holy grail of information at your finger tips.
They feel seen, heard and validated. When you actually use it and reference their preferences, they feel even more seen, heard and validated. A child that feels seen, heard and validated is a much calmer child. Yes, they are still going to loose it. Yes, they are still going to throw fits, and have bad attitudes, but this has been a life saver for us during this time.
A simple, "Hey sis, why don't you go pick something off of your happy list for us to do." The utter excitement and joy that comes beaming from that child's eyes. Pure magic!
It's a simple redirection. A small gesture of kindness in the midst of a hard time for them. A breath of fresh air for both you and them. It's a time-in instead of a time-out. It's teaching them how to listen and navigate their bodies and emotions to give good care to themselves emotionally and mentally.
I know it was eye opening as we went through the questions together. They mentioned things on their Eeyore list, that I thought would definitely have gone on their happy list. Activities that we were doing because I thought they still liked to do them. I was shocked at some. I realized that, much like us in this time, sometimes things that used to be good and brought them happiness was actually making them sad because they couldn't do it with friends. So we have paused some of those activities and started new ones. It's been so helpful and effective for our family, and I hope it is helpful and effective to yours as well.
Leave a comment and let us know how you did!
Want more tools on how to calm your kids in the middle of a outburst, while keeping your cool? Click here
Other ways to help calm a child down that is struggling with managing their emotions.