HELP PRESCHOOLERS WITH THEIR BIG EMOTIONS.
Preschoolers absorb information, vocabulary and physical skills, at a rapid rate, allowing us to feel they are more mature and capable of regulating their larger emotions and fears. These new found independent behaviors, can mask the fact that they may feel overwhelming emotions, like anger, frustration, sadness and fear and not know how to process them in a manageable way. Their brains are developing quickly and they’re not always equipped to cope with the big emotions that may overwhelm them. Parents and caregivers can do a lot to help them learn how to calm themselves and manage these emotions in a healthier, appropriate way.
Here are a few suggestions to help calm their inner storms:
Name the Emotion- this helps them separate the feeling from everyday behavior. I'm sorry you’re feeling sad that we couldn’t go to the park. I feel sad too but we will try to go on another day. By recognizing their emotion and treating it in a calm way, they can defuse the frustration they are feeling. When they learn the names of all the emotions they could feel, they won't be so overwhelming and they will recognize and define how they are feeling. A child who has a word for a particular feeling, can express it with words instead of anger, “I’m mad at you,” is far better than resorting to hitting. And a child who can say, "That hurts my feelings," is better equipped to resolve conflict peacefully.
Lead By Example- Children learn by watching their caregivers and parents behavior. How you react to strong emotions sends a clear message to their brains and teaches them how to react to negative emotions. How a coach responds to the opposing team will soon rub off on the kids' attitudes towards competition. If they are shown that good sportsmanship on the field goes a long way, they will mimic the behavior and be more in control of their negative emotions if they lose or don't agree with the call. Staying calm, listening to their frustration, and not using anger to control them will go a long way.
Read Books About Emotions- Books are a fun and interesting way to teach children concepts in ways that aren’t intimidating or hard to understand. Try finding books on grief, anger, sadness, happiness, and fear that show emotions through a child's eyes.
Learn Breathing Exercises - A few slow, deep breaths can help kids relax their minds and their bodies. Teach them to breathe in through their nose as if they are smelling a pizza, then breathe out through their mouth like they are trying to cool the pizza.
Counting Down Exercises- Teach them to count down from 1-10 or count the tiles on the ceiling. The concentration and distraction will help to calm them down.
Separate Feelings from Behavior- Children must learn to express their emotions in a socially appropriate manner. Teaching them that they can feel that emotion but they can choose how they behave with that emotion. Talking the emotion through and voicing it is a far better way than rolling on the floor in the supermarket or hitting your brother.
Take a Water Break - Offer them a water break or a choice to go to their room for a short while until they calm down. Make it clear that they can choose.
Make a Calm Down Kit - Create a box of items that help cheer them up, Coloring books and crayons, scratch and sniff stickers, or memory card games and puzzles.
It’s important to teach them coping skills that can help them face their fears, calm themselves down, and cheer themselves up. Emotional awareness can help kids be mentally strong, even when they feel emotions deeply. Discipline behavior, but not emotions. Say, “You are going to time-outbecause you hit your brother,” or “You are losing this toy for the rest of the day because you are screaming and it hurts my ears.” Avoid rewarding them when they have calmed down. This will just reinforce the outbursts.
While it’s unlikely that there’s cause for concern, it’s still worth checking in with your pediatrician to make sure there's not something fueling what you're observing. This is especially important if your child is young and has a hard time communicating. If your child has always been emotional, there’s probably no cause for concern. But, if they suddenly seem to have more trouble managing emotions, talk to your pediatrician.