Speaking with Children When Big Feelings Arise
So how to speak to children when big emotions arise— Some might call these tantrums. River has had her share, but I truly believe that because of our openness and willingness to talk about feelings, these moments are so much more manageable.
By helping her name her emotions, she is able to not only connect her feelings to the cause, she can also recognize it as an effect. She understands how to communicate with me through language, not just the outward physical expression. She’s in control, because she has the words to communicate it.
When River is crying because I said no 5 days in a row of pancakes I say, “I know you are disappointed.” When she stomps and shouts, I say “you must be so frustrated.” Even when Kellen, who is 10 months old, furiously crying because he is overtired. "You are overwhelmed and exhausted. You must need to rest.”
When I help my children name the emotion and allow the conversation, I empower them. They are validated. How they feel is real. I see it over and over again in my home and in my classroom. And it’s life changing when I reciprocate and speak openly about how I am feeling with my children.
I’ll never forget the moment… I was a very new mom to a second baby and a toddler trying to go to the grocery store for the first and just trying to get out the door. Frazzled, frantic, and a bit frenetic, I curtly told River to “get in her car seat now!” Now, the emotion I expressed was anger, but this was my story not hers. She turned to me and said, “you must be frustrated… two babies is a lot of babies.” My words out of her mouth. Emotional Intelligence. I help her, she helps me. We can all help each other. “You’re right, my love. I’m sorry I raised my voice. I am feeling very overwhelmed and it would help me so much if you could get in your seat faster. Thank you.”
Here are my favorites for speaking about emotions for parents and teachers. Click here to read my post on children’s books on emotions.
The One Minute Mother — my copy of this book was my mothers. She absolutely modeled what it was to speak with children. Address issues calmly and with softness. Say explicitly what you mean, say it quickly, and always end with an “I love you.”
How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk — I love the idea that it’s not just about talking, real communication is also about real listening. This book offers tools for naming emotions and also asking questions to allow children to express themselves safely.
Now Say This — Again, another book that offers real tools and alternatives to help address confrontations, emotional turmoil, and other parenting dilemmas.
Choice Words — This books predominately discusses language in the classroom. I feel that it translates well to motherhood. The above books also work well for the classroom.