Managing the Public Meltdowns of Your Child
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Many of us parents have experienced a public meltdown from our child.
In this article, a father experienced it with his daughter and stayed calm as he let worked through her public display of emotions.
'There's a lot of pressure out there on both men and women to be the perfect parents at all times...What's important is we don't teach them to hide those feelings or push them down for fear of ridicule — that kind of emotion-management can come back to haunt us as adults.' he said.
1.Allow The Space To Express
Our infants cry as a form of expression. Our younger children have developed a range of explicit communication such as speaking, smiling, laughing, singing and more.
The next skill to learn is recognising his/her emotions and thoughts, managing and processing the feelings.
It is important to allow your child the moment to experience an emotion relating to the event.
It's unhealthy to shhh our child and teach him/her instead to suppress the negative emotion. Unfortunately there is a cultural bias here in Asia to expect a good child to be one who sits still and doesn't express any negative emotion.
It's part and parcel of life to go through ups and downs. Our child should learn to recognise it is natural and permissable to have unhappy thoughts or emotions and feel secure to express it before it becomes an unbearable stress.
When the meltdown happens in public, move your child to a safe zone (e.g. not in front of escalator or next to a road) and let his emotions run.
2. Take The Initiative To Comfort
When you sense a lull in your child's wailing, ask kindly if she is ready to share what happens or what she is feeling. Take the first step to hug her or scoop her up. We are the more emotionally mature one. We should model the way we comfort someone who is upset.
3. Work Through The Emotions With Your Child
When a child is as young as a toddler, his/her response to a trigger event (I want to go to the toys shop now!) may seem disproportionate to an adult.
This overshooting of responses really depend on social norm and family norm.
After the child has a moment to express himself, take a moment to speak to him about how he feels. 'Are you ready to talk to mommy now about what you are feeling? Why are you so sad? Did you think we will not be going to the toy shop?'
When we talk to our child about his feelings, he learns a healthier and a more moderate way of working through issues.
4. Consideration For The Feelings Of Others
Communication is a two-way street.
While we want our child to express his thoughts and feelings to us so we know what's on their minds, it is important our child knows what's on our minds too.
Frequently I observe meltdowns from children in shopping malls. Some of these parents may do a very good job of point 1 in giving the child the room to express but the parents are ignoring the tantrums, instead of pausing their activity to hear the child out. Neither is there a follow-up of emotional guidance for the child.
Many of the meltdowns give us clues to a child's preference.
For instance, a child may be bored from a lack of engagement due to prolonged shopping or adult activity. Or the child may be overstimulated and overwhelmed from the lights and noise in a mall.
When we recognise another individual's preference and show consideration for his feelings, there may be less mismatch in expectation and less future meltdown.
Manage expectation. Let our child knows what is on the agenda. 'I know you really want to go the toys shop now. But mommy needs to buy and pay for grocery first.'
Taking a snack break may help. Allowing the child an opportunity to run in a park or a playground helps improve his/her mood tremendously.
Childhood tantrums are common and normal. It doesn't mean that they will go away if we ignore it.
A dismissal of our child's feelings hinders the development of them managing their emotional health. It interferes with his/her ability to handle stress later in life and the tantrums may very well continue into adulthood.
When you think your child is giving you a hard time, consider first that the child is having a hard time. One of our many parenting roles is to be his/her emotional coach.
More on the article.