What’s the best way to help our kids calm down?
What about calm down rooms, mindfulness jars, choice time, breathing techniques, 1-2-3 Magic?
Often these are just different ways of saying, “You have got to calm down.” (Because I am having trouble handling your emotions.)
We think when our child has a melt-down the solution is to calm them down as quickly as possible.
What is the impact on our children when we require them to calm down on our timeline when they are upset?
Are we doing this because we can’t handle our kid’s big emotions, think they are a problem, and only want to invite in our child’s calm, cool, and regulated emotions?
What are we really asking them to do? Are they developmentally able to do it?
Years ago this question got me thinking.
At the time I didn’t realize I was expecting my 3, 6, or 8 years old to do something they couldn’t do on their own. They weren’t able to regulate their emotions on their own. They needed my help.
This realization changed my inner dialogue.
It was hard to change anything in real life at the time.
My house was loud and crazy. I had six kids and our home was full of kids with lots of energy and emotions to manage. It can feel very challenging, especially if we were never invited and encouraged to feel all our emotions by our parents.
We think ‘normal’ is emotionally calm kids when in reality ‘normal’ is emotionally boisterous kids. Some scientists believe kids might feel emotions even stronger than adults. You combine that with the fact that the part of their brain that thinks more logically isn’t fully developed, and things start to make a lot more sense.
But most of us don’t know this and feel really uncomfortable if our kid’s emotions get supercharged. It looks wrong to us and can be very unsettling.
We think we need to make the ‘negative’ emotions go away for things to be right. Here’s the truth though. They are just feelings. It’s part of the human experience. There is no escaping our emotions and the more we try to make the “negative” ones go away the more they persist.
The more we invite them in with empathy, compassion, and curiosity the more they lose their power over us.
We can handle feeling the emotions our kids have. We just have to change the way we are thinking about it.
Our child’s brain isn’t as able to manage the big waves of emotions that hit it throughout the day. That’s where we come in.
We get to help them learn the art of processing and regulating their emotions. It’s called co-regulation. They learn how to do it by first watching us and by having us give them permission to feel their emotions.
This allows nature to take them on the trip from mad to sad…which brings them back to equilibrium.
They do not learn how to regulate their emotions by being told to calm down before they are developmentally ready. This process takes time.
What if we saw it as a gift that we get to be there alongside them as they learn to navigate and regulate their emotions.
Our child’s ability to process and regulate their emotions comes from watching our process to regulate our emotions.
In the beginning, it’s a process of co-regulating alongside them.
They don’t learn how to process feelings by being asked to calm down before they are developmentally ready.