In this months ‘Ask Anisa’ feature, Anisa looks at how to deal with anger & emotions.
My son is having real trouble expressing and dealing with his emotions. He gets angry then tearful sometimes at the smallest of things… it’s like he doesn’t know how to express how he feels. I’m at a loss of what to do!
Anger and big emotions are something I witness and see a lot of through my coaching work and as a teacher. Each child is an individual and what might be causing these outbursts is something that needs to be worked through, discussed and looked at with the specific child in mind. However, there are some overarching things that you can look at before seeking help.
What triggers the emotion?
Work back to try and decode what is the cause of the emotion is it frustration, energy levels, reaction to food, or hormones?
A frequent one that parents bring to me is transitioning between activities. Your child is engrossed in an activity and you declare it is dinnertime, what happens next is that your child reacts and big emotions flare up.
Where is your child in their development?
Growth spurts, hormone surges, developmental milestones can all cause emotions to be on high alert. Typical (not that there are ever typical children!) where our children’s bodies are going through changes on the inside as well as out is through the toddler years, around 7 or 8 years of age (I call this a mini teenageitis) and then again as they enter tweens and teens. Depending on many factors your child could hit these stages earlier or later than other children and that is ok.
What can I do to help my child?
Some tricks of the trade that may help you to ride the waves of big emotions in your household:
Be a role model. How do you deal with big emotions? How do you express yourself? Your children are always watching and learning from you, so no pressure!
Consistency is key, whether you at home or in the supermarket, you need to react and deal with the emotion in the same consistent manner.
During quiet, calm times could you discuss with your child their emotions and what you will do about it when it occurs.
Use time warnings to prepare your children for the change that is about to occur, e.g. in 5 minutes, it is tidy up time.
Sand timers are a great parenting tool, time is a very abstract concept to children. Sand timers help them understand time better as it is visual and they can literally see time passing e.g. I am going to put the 2-minute timer on, please sit there and think about what you have done and I will be back when all the sand has gone through.
If you do want to use a timeout, I am a big advocate of a ‘thinking spot’ as it does not carry the same negative connotations and labels that a naughty step does. The thinking spot encourages them to do just that, think about what they have done and how they could do it differently in the future.