It’s hard enough to deal with strong emotions as an adult. Children, with their still-developing brains, have an even harder time. Hopefully that helps you understand why your little one seems to have constant emotional outbursts. They’re still learning to deal with emotions – and they need your help!
What’s the best and easiest way to help them process their emotions?
PLAY! (Of course!)
Dr. Laura Markham of Aha! Parenting wrote a fabulous post called “Playing with Your Child: Games for Connection and Emotional Intelligence” suggesting games to deal with everything from constant whining to sibling rivalry. About emotions, she writes:
“All day, every day, children have to manage complicated feelings: Fear (What if there IS something under the bed?), Jealousy (Maybe you do love their sibling more!), Humiliation (The teacher acted like he should already know that, and all the kids laughed!), Panic (What if she doesn’t make it to the bathroom on time?), Anger (It was my turn!), Disappointment (Doesn’t anyone care what I want?!)…. The normal challenges of every day for a growing child of any age stimulate all kinds of feelings. Children release these emotions through play. Laughter, specifically, transforms our body chemistry by reducing stress hormones and increasing bonding hormones.” (Dr. Laura Markham, Aha! Parenting)
So based on her experience and reading she put together a list of games to get your little one laughing, releasing emotions, and reducing stress. In case you don’t read the full article, though, let me mention here that she does not recommend tickling in any of these games.
Tickling can make your child feel “invaded and out of control,” which is exactly what you don’t want. Frankly, that’s how I felt when I was young so THANK YOU Dr. Markham for saying that!
Below are my faves from her list but there are plenty more if you check out her full post.
The “Fix” Game (because it fixes anything … ha!)
In this game you chase your little one around showering them with hugs and kisses, letting them go, and chasing them again over and over. In my house I chase Baby around while saying things like, “I gotta hug you! I need more hugs! More smooches! Lots and lots more smooches!” and when I catch her I’ll wrap my arms around her and declare, “I just wanna love you and hug you and smoosh you and smooch you and hug you and love you and hug you some more!”
The “No” Game
This one’s cool. If you’re little one is grumpy and keeps saying, “No!” make a game out of it! Kind of like Simon Says – you say “Yes” in a certain tone of voice and have them say “No” in a matching tone. And, of course, make your voice as silly and wacky as possible because, well, it’s a game! The point is to get them giggling!
To help a little one get to bed more easily at night, spend some calm quality time with them by saying goodnight to every part of their body – their shoulder, their arm, their wrist, their hand, etc. When you get to each body part, give it a loving touch and a gentle massage to help them wind down for the evening.
Aren’t those lovely? Check out the original post for more!