As we roll out of January (the longest month ever) you may begin to notice an escalation in your child's emotions. Over the last few years, January has notoriously become a difficult month. The lows of the holidays being over, the lack of routine when schools begin to close for illnesses or snow, and just a general lack of sunshine in this first full winter month can have us all feeling like we are on an emotional rollercoaster. As adults, we have a sense of how to regulate our emotions, but we don't always manage it very well because we are humans too! However, through all the challenges of January, our littlest household members are still learning to regulate and communicate their emotions. We are happy to bring you some practical ways to manage those emotions on the difficult days that lie ahead in this month of February ...the month of LOVE! Don't be afraid to use some of these strategies on yourself as well. You play a HUGE role and set the tone for how your children respond to things. Let's all just LOVE each other a little more than we did in January.
The Meltdown is Coming: What Can You Do?
Get on eye level with your child to communicate. This makes them feel more connected to you and could help them calm down faster.
Decrease external stimulation if possible. Examples would be turning off the TV, moving away from noises such as a dog barking or other children crying or laughing, or even something as simple as removing their jacket if you feel they are hot.
If you sense a sensory overload or an unmet sensory need, attempt a movement break.
Try some deep breathing exercises with your child (or with yourself).
Answer questions that your child has even in the midst of a meltdown. Try to attach an emotion to their feelings to help them learn emotions and validate how they FEEL but not how they ACT.
Replacing IF with THEN
One of our favorite strategies is really this simple! Word replacement can really help de-escalate tantrums. As parents in a crisis moment, we often make empty threats and demands that we know we can't keep. For example, we may find ourselves saying "IF you don't pick up your toys, you are not going to the park". Instead, try saying "When you pick up your toys, THEN we can go to the park". You are still communicating what needs to be done and you are still getting the same outcome of your child picking up his toys without the extended meltdown or the constant feeling of battling with your child. Of course, there is absolutely a place for consequences and discipline, but replacing IF with THEN can reward positive behavior and create a calmer house while learning boundaries.
A Few Resources
Here are a few books along with a chart that can help you on your journey of teaching emotions to your child. These are certainly not the only ones, but some of our favorites at Little, Big and LOUD! (Hint: These books would be a great addition to your child's Valentine's Day treat bag/basket!)
I am a Rainbow is a great book for connecting emotions with colors of the rainbow. Dolly is quick to remind us that we all have a rainbow inside of us and we all experience multiple emotions every day. A great book for your youngest children!
The Feelings Book by Todd Parr vibrantly illustrates the wide range of moods we all experience
The Way I Feel by Janan Cain is a simple book that quickly teaches different emotions and feelings with identifiable illustrations, clear language and relatable experiences.
The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld is a moving picture book about empathy and kindness and is a great book for when your children experience something sad and don't know how to handle it.
Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall is a great lesson in overcoming the emotion of fear. This is a perfect read for when your child may experience the emotions that come with trying something new.
**The chart below is a great way to start having the discussion of emotional regulation with your child. They can connect with these characters and begin to identify how they are feeling.
Emotion Chart: Superhero Edition
The Thing: I’m out of control. (I feel as if I might explode because I’m overwhelmed.)
The Hulk: I’m starting to lose it. (I’m getting angry and may say things I don’t mean.)
The Flash: I’m feeling anxious or nervous or excited. (I feel as if I need to run/move as fast as I can.)
Spiderman: I think I can handle it. (I’m going to push myself to get through it.)
Superman: I am just right. (Nothing can bring me down!)
**This is just an example! Be creative in your approach to dealing with your child’s emotions. You know what your child will love!
Sending you all the XOXO's this month,
Little Big and LOUD