Ahhh September! Even on the hot and steamy Gulf Coast Fall excitement is in the air. Time to bring out the boots and break out the pumpkin spice! School is back in session and the excitement of seeing teachers and friends makes for easy transitions for parents. Older siblings go off to their respective schools, vacation fun goes back to plans, and the ever-present workload goes back in to gear. As all transitions do though, these changes can bring on some pretty big emotions for our littles.
We often call these ages and stages by many nicknames, Terrible twos, feisty fours, and some more colorful descriptions on exceptionally hard days! As parents we can often feel at a loss or frustrated as our children are struggling with big emotions that can bring out many behaviors. As our children figure out how to be their little own people, there are many ways we can help them and also give peace to our homes.
I am currently dealing with a 4-year-old and 2 pre-teens in my own home. I often remind myself of the amount of growth and development that is happening in their brains and bodies, and that what they need most right now is love, respect, and understanding. I also believe that our attitude has a definitive effect on how we react to our children. This can be hard when we are tired or simply worn down, and we sometimes react in ways we are not proud of. Here are some tips to help navigate the ups and downs of the early childhood years.
Big emotions are OKAY– children experience emotions in the extreme. Why we may think that what our child is crying over is silly, they are still personal emotions. Rather than try to fix it, stop it, or give in, simply tell the child you understand that they have the emotion, and its ok to feel that way. Something as simple as offering a hug or a safe place to ride out the emotions can be beneficial. After the tantrum has passed, then you can talk about what happened.
Redirect- Often children need to get energy and emotions out but the only way they know how is to scream, whine, hit, or engage in other difficult behaviors. Let the child know in a manner of fact way that it is not ok and redirect to a different activity. “Throwing toys at your brother is not ok. If you need to throw, you may throw these Legos into the bucket.”
Be Confident- Children often test us to see if we are in control. They don’t really want to be in charge, they just want to feel safe and loved. When we feel frustrated or out of control, children get more out of control. Be firm, set consequences, and don’t employ empty threats. An example is, “when you play with your food, it tells me you are done with lunch” (and then end the meal).
Be Real- Children learn from modeled behavior. “Mommy is feeling frustrated, I’m going to go sit over here and take a break.” Show the children that feelings are ok, and model strategies to handle them. Additionally, you will be able to react and be confident and calming when you have taken time first.
I could continue to go on with countless ideas and strategies, and I will provide some amazing reference materials at the end of the blog. The best advice for navigating the trying and irreplaceably precious early years is to simply love. Love, safety and understanding are the keys to winning the emotional early years.