Not sure how to express your emotions or manage them during this unprecedented time, let alone support your child to? Don’t panic, OTHC is here to help! We are all experiencing heightened emotions with the uncertainty of what the “new normal” is going to be like. Occupational Therapy can provide parents with simple strategies and assist in creating a “toolbox” to support you and your child through this challenging season of life. This blog will do just that!
We know that when our brain perceives a situation as stressful or dangerous our “fight, flight and freeze response” can be triggered. This causes us to experience big emotions, not allowing us to think logically and problem solve. Children most likely will not have this understanding and as adults supporting their development, we are to coach them through this. Here are 4 steps to support you to work towards managing your child’s emotions:
Silence the noise and be the calm.
When we see a child experience big emotions, this could cause us to also get emotional and respond in a “loud” or abrupt way. Take a deep breath and connect with your child emotionally. Ask questions, request alternatives, and even negotiate. We need to work on silencing those loud thoughts invading our brain telling us to immediately discipline the child during the child’s emotional episode, yet this can heighten them even more.
Name it to tame it.
During the emotional episode support your child to “name” the emotion they are experiencing. This will aid you to help them tell the story about what is upsetting them; this validates their emotions and gives you an understanding of what is going on and how to move forward. Naming the emotion can teach your child to link the feeling they are experiencing with a word, giving them context to later use this word. “Tame” the emotion, giving space for them to understand how their body expresses a particular emotion and what they can do when they experience it again.
Make the hidden unhidden.
Support your child to make their “hidden” memories about what they experienced “unhidden” by taking the time and providing a safe, calm space to speak about their emotional experience. This will allow them to know emotions are not negative but a part of life. This also supports shared problem solving and logical thinking through what would work best for the next time they experience a big emotion. Occupational Therapists call this making an “emotional regulation toolbox”. This is so a child, and their parent can have the “tools” to ensure that past experiences do not affect the child in debilitating ways.
Be open with your child about when you experience emotions.
To show that everyone experiences and deals with emotions differently. Speak about your body and how you know when you are getting upset or angry e.g. “when I am angry I notice I start to get red in the face and raise my voice”. Also provide a strategy that supports you to calm down, for example taking deep breaths, taking time away or listening to calming music. This can further allow for an emotional connection with your child as well as reflection about what happens to their body when they experience different emotions. To support your child to build up to and learn to “name it to tame it” themselves in future.
For more information about your child’s emotional development, how to find/access the right “tools” for your child and how to manage your child’s emotions get in touch with your Occupational Therapist for a Parent Consultation.
Also, OTHC will be providing a parenting workshop, based off “The Whole-Brain Child” by Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson, which offers practical exercises, worksheets and activities to nurture developing minds. If you would like to sign up to this course please email us.