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  • Writer's pictureEaston Gaines, MSEd, PsyD

Help your child off of their emotional rollercoaster

For a growing brain, a small spark can ignite a big flame of emotion. It is easy to slip into reaction mode when this happens. While you may want your child off of the ride ASAP. Even when the emotion feels out of proportion, you'll always want to validate the feeling instead of minimizing it (e.g., “stop getting so upset, everything is fine”).

1. Name the feeling: Whether you think your child may be mad, sad, frustrated, embarrassed, or disappointed, put a name to it. Then, empathetically demonstrate your understanding.

“I know you are upset we aren’t going to the park today. I get angry when I don’t get to do things I want to do too.” 

That extra element reinforces to your child that everyone feels those emotions sometimes, even if they aren’t as often or as intense.

At the same time, we want to make sure they know that emotions can be fleeting and the way they feel now won’t last forever—or even necessarily more than a few minutes.

2. Show acceptance: Dealing with big emotions can be incredibly overwhelming. Though it may be hard for you to understand why she feels the way she does, there can be an acknowledgment that you understand they are working through some big emotions and that is OK! Kids need to learn to recognize, understand, and cope with what they are experiencing, and feeling "seen" and accepted can help tremendously.

3. Emotion Regulation: Once those two

have been established, she will be ready to try out some deep breathing, counting to calm down, taking a break, problem-solving, etc.

Tips to remember while helping them exit the rollercoaster

Connect: Use empathy to show their emotional outbursts don't make you love them

any less

"I can see that you're struggling right now. I am here for you and I love you"

Help them understand: Avoid telling them how they feel. Instead, help them understand.

"I can see that your body is tense and you're breathing quickly right now. It looks like you're angry and frustrated."

Remind: Brainstorm ideas for dealing with big emotions together and remind them of these ideas when they need them most.

"Next time you feel that way, what would help? What could you tell yourself to help ride it out?"

Remember, emotions are like big waves -- you and your child can ride them out!

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