By: Stephanie Fredericka
Managing and regulating emotions is part of the emotional development of children. Young children rely on parents and caregivers to give them the tools and outlets they need to gain control over their emotions. Parents can do so by allowing children to express their frustration and anger in a safe, nurturing space.
Children do not always have the language and words to label their feelings, and parents can help them with this. Parents can ask questions such as:
"are you feeling angry?
"are you upset?"
"are you tired?"
Validating how a child is feeling to let them know they are heard and understood
is a powerful tool. Adults can then offer children assistance in using coping and calm down strategies to develop their "Coping Skills Toolbox."
Below are five tools to help children express their emotions in positive outlets
and to beginbuilding the strategies with which to self-soothe. These tools can be kept in a "Calming Box."
It's also a great idea to designate an area of the home that is relaxing, possibly with a comfy chair or blanket, that a child can go to when feeling overwhelmed. Building a positive Coping Skills Toolbox can be a fun experience for children!
Playing with Play-doh or Putty
This allows children to release energy and frustration through their hands. This sensory experience allows children to begin to self-regulate as their body begins to calm. It can help to encourage the child to kneed the Play-Doh or make into a ball, and then flatten it with their palms.
Drawing or Coloring
Allow the child to draw a picture of what happened or how they
are feeling. The process of coloring allows little minds to relax and focus on something that they enjoy doing.
Help your child focus on taking big, deep breathes, in for 5 and out for 5. Encourage them to focus on taking big breathes from their belly, holding the breathe in for a couple of seconds before slowly releasing it. Playing soft music in the background will create a warm atmosphere while practicing deep breathing. Bubbles are a great way to get children to practice to focus on their breathe, as they blow to make a bubble! As the bubbles pop allow the child to visualize their worries disappearing.
Create a worry monster
When your child is calm, let him or her design a worry monster out of a tissue box. This box can be used to "eat" worries or triggers that make a child angry. When they are upset prompt him or her to write down what upset them. Then put the piece of paper in the monster to eat! This action allows the child to let their worries go as they see it disappear into the monsters mouth
Simply taking a break
Sometimes a child needs to be distracted from a situation by reading a book, listening to music or taking a walk with an adult. This is also a great opportunity to have kids do a "body scan."
Start at the head and as you work down the body, help the child to notice areas of tension in his or body. Have the child release that tension by relaxing their muscles. This can be done by squeezing and releasing their muscles.
Allowing children to feel, express and work through their frustrations normalizes their experiences and builds positive coping skills! This creates confident children with the power to gain control of their emotions.
Another blog by a young woman who shares her inner most experience and thoughts in her struggle with depression.
Depression is like this dark cloud constantly hanging over you. It follows you everywhere. Sometimes it disappears for a bit, but it always finds its way back. You feel worthless. You feel as if no one loves you. You have very negative thoughts. You hate feeling this way. You wish it would all just end. You want to be fixed. You want these feelings to go away. You're feelings aren't welcome. You're angry. You push people away. You ask yourself why you're acting this way.
You become lonely. You want to be alone, but you also want to be around people. You have no interest in doing things, yet at the same time you want to be doing something to get your mind off of your negative thoughts. You need to keep yourself busy so you don't get too deep into your thoughts, but you want to do nothing and you just want to relax all day. Your thoughts are emotionally draining, so you're exhausted even if you haven't done anything all day. People see you as lazy.
You feel as if no one understands you. Sometimes, people make you feel worse, so you isolate yourself. You're seen as anti-social.
You try to get rid of the dark cloud hanging over your head, but some days it's attached to you by a rope. There are no scissors around to cut the cloud free to let it float somewhere else. You feel stuck, like you can't get away. You are trapped and you feel as if nothing can help.
You take it day by day. Each day is just another day. There's nothing to look forward to. All you know is that when you wake up each morning, you'll be greeted by the all too familiar dark cloud.
Dr. Liz Matheis
Dr Liz Matheis and her team specialize in assisting children and their families with Anxiety, Autism, AD/HD, Learning Disabilities and Behavioral Struggles