Kids with "big feelings" - yikes! How to think differently

IMAGINE: you as a child, crying uncontrollably about something that seemed really important at the time.

Then, think: how did your parents react? Logic and lots of words? Yelling? Maybe time outs, spanking, being sent to your room, holding you? Then think how this felt to you - supportive, seemingly cruel, isolating? 

Many of us, as well-intentioned as can be, may really try to refrain from yelling but don't think twice before putting kids in time-outs. 

Yet leaving kids to manage these feelings can be highly isolating, and can even feel like developmental trauma to littles whose brains are not yet able to think rationally or logically. They may feel very alone. Timeouts tend to send a subconscious message to kids that bad feelings aren't acceptable and to come back when they're happy and more lovable.

It can teach kids, unknowingly, to be more reactive in heightened emotional situations.

Now: Envision how it would feel if your parents had stayed with you, maybe reaffirmed the limit set but instead sent a message that you were loved. Reassured that you were safe, then helped to problem solve. If they did this, you are fortunate and liking supporting your kids the same way. If not, play around and see what feels best to you and what is a match for your child. 

It isn't always practical, but as much as you are able - be present in moments with big feelings. It is the long road in the beginning, but after putting in the time the child learns powerful self-regulation tools to use when cannot be around. 

Katie Crosby