Strong emotions can be scary, overwhelming, and str/essful for parents (and children!). Use these three tips to help you be a confident parent the next time your child has depression.
He’s standing in the kitchen screaming. Hands clasped to the sides. Eyes fixed and wide open.
You try everything – offer a hug, yell “calm down”, send her to her room, take some screen time away – nothing helps.
He’s still angry, he’s confused, and why doesn’t he take a deep breath and calm down? Why doesn’t he listen to your advice, realize it’s not “important” and move on?
After a few minutes, you too get angry.
You feel out of control and helpless. “Do I let her fall apart like this forever?” »
What are your options in the heat of the moment?
I like to think of emotions as a hill.
On one side of the hill, your son is calm, content, and happy.
But then something happens – a trigger, a stressful situation, a disappointment, a disconnection – and their brains and bodies start to react. They can be agitated, agitated, they can run away or hide, they can react or attack a sibling. Some children climb the hill quickly, often without warning, while others slowly climb to the top.
The top of the hill is the height of emotion. This is where the intensity is at its peak. Right now, your child’s brain is in the fight, flight, or freeze mode. He is unable to think clearly or process logical information. Their brains are looking for threats and their bodies respond by fighting, looking for an escape, shouting, or isolating themselves.
Eventually, the intense feelings begin to fade. Your child’s body and brain relax as they descend to the other side of the hill. The discussion begins to calm down, they may cry, shut up, avoid your gaze, or start playing again. It can be a slow descent or a quick recovery.
Over time, your child’s brain and body will return to their baseline level across the hill.
Three Things to do upon Your Son’s Distribution
The top of the hill is a scary, oppressive, confusing, and stressful place for us parents (and kids too!). We hate to see our child in pain, we want to help him, and we feel our own emotions growing and can be triggered by their emotional outburst.
And, although we would like to avoid it altogether, there is no way to avoid great feelings altogether.
Rather than looking for a perfect strategy to stop the collapse, decrease its intensity or prevent it from happening, our job is to support our children through the mess, knowing that they will soon be on each other side.
1. CALM Yourself FIRST.
It may seem counterintuitive, but focusing your energy on forcing your child to calm down will likely backfire on you. Instead, focus on your breathing, your body posture, and your thoughts. Yes, it is exhausting and yes it can be scary, overwhelming, stressful, and tense – and – your child needs you to be their safe and confident center. They need to know that they can count on you to stay in control when they are out of control. It is normal to be angry when our children are upset. It doesn’t matter if this step is difficult or if you start slow but end up matching your child’s intensity. Notice your reaction and keep practicing – it will get easier over time. Learn more about how to manage your anger here.
2. SPEAK LESS.
In the heat of the moment, we tend to engage in passionate lessons, reminding our children why they should obey, and using logic and reasoning to help them calm down. All of these discussions can increase the stress your child is feeling, increase the intensity of their feelings, and lead to other negative reactions. Instead, make room for silence and choose your words carefully. If you intend to speak, use a calm, gentle, and confident tone. Focus on encouragement and empathy: “You are safe. I’m here. You will overcome this. I know you are feeling overwhelmed right now. We got you. “
3. Pause the Decision-making Process.
When logic and reasoning don’t work, we often move on to threats, consequences, taking things away, and sending the kids to their rooms. Unfortunately, these actions usually make things worse when your child is at his peak intensity, he is unable to think, plan, and problem solve. They may not be able to calm the brain and body quickly enough to avoid punishment. Instead, commit to waiting until everyone is calm to talk about the conflict. When your brain is calm, you can be curious about the behavior and explore ways to help your child cope better with high feelings in the future.
Practicing this over time sends your child an important message: “I am not alone in my great feelings. My tutor will help me overcome this.
Rather than feeling the need to stay alert, your child’s brain may begin to recognize you as a support. Rather than running away or fighting you, they may start running TOWARD you, feeling safe and confident in your ability to help them get through this great, overwhelming feeling.
Why doesn’t my son just take a Deep Breath?
Coping and calming strategies are important skills that you and your child should learn and practice together. Exploring ways to stay or calm down during times of stress helps the brain and body know what to do the next time these great feelings surface.
Unfortunately, appeasement strategies aren’t always helpful when our emotions are at the top of the hill.
When the emotional part of the brain is engaged, the thinking and processing part is offline, making it difficult for your child to explore calm options. Your child’s body may not feel safe enough to try to calm down, being too young or immature to make a calming decision on your own.
The best time to use coping and calming strategies is on both sides of the hill, as emotions develop and emotions return to baseline.
In the meantime, your calming presence is important!