Talk to any parent: The holidays bring out the best and worst in families. As parents of children whose emotions are running high, you may find yourselves struggling to keep the spirits bright. Here are 5 helpful hints for a happier holiday with your kids.
1. Remember, all children struggle with processing strong emotion. Every child learns to regulate their emotions at a different pace as they mature. In the meantime, they look to you to help them quell anxiety, so try to stay as steady and patient as possible even in the face of an eruption. If you lose your composure, your child is left feeling like no one is in control and this can heighten the intensity of a meltdown.
2. Begin by helping your child label the feelings she is experiencing. If you can put language to feelings, it helps her to make sense of her experiences and calm down. She will also feel that you care about her and are trying to understand. Be sure to do this before her feelings become too intense. Problem solving when feelings are too strong may only aggravate the problem.
3. Identify situations where your child is more vulnerable to experiencing strong emotions and losing self-control. Plan for these situations in advance. Explain what is going to happen, what emotions she may feel and how you will support her, as well as what she can do for herself to keep calm.
4. Be tolerant of your child’s feelings. That doesn’t mean let him be inappropriate or destructive. Reassure your distraught child that you are going to listen to him, but he first needs to get his feelings under control with your help. He needs to be able to discuss his feelings in a respectful manner.
5. Once emotions are under control, you can make every effort to understand the experience from your child’s perspective. Taking this approach does not mean you agree with your child. It simply means you are trying to understand how he experienced a situation and what meaning it took on for him. Efforts invested in this process will also create more space for you to offer alternative explanations and perspectives on the situation.