Over the years, I have heard and seen many parents share their difficulties, concerns and challenges. The biggest concerns are often around children and their emotions. This often looks like tantrums, “losing it” and “meltdowns”. Sometimes, this situation is related to other developmental challenges, sensory sensitivities or complex considerations like Autism. However, depending on their age, many children do actually have control over their emotions. It may just be that the situation has triggered them very fast into overwhelm or emotional overload.
Many parents report that their young boys are angry and “lose their cool” easily. For some boys, this is perplexing as they are “perfect angels” at school. In my experience, the situation is such that sometimes children can put a lot of energy into expected behaviour and into certain contexts – but this is exhausting and by the time they get home, to their familiar environment, they are tired and emotionally drained. This may mean that already they are agitated or grumpy, or it may mean that a small thing, a change or a challenge – something that they can normally handle and manage, set them off – triggering them to a “meltdown” or a temper tantrum.
Sometimes children have some low-level anxiety – basically, they are worried about something…..Sometimes it is “change” and sometimes it is a situation that has occurred before – something that previously was stressful or distressing. For some children, it is new things or things that are out of their routine………For other children it is a situation where their brain is thinking, over thinking or needing many small, minor details resolved. This brain activity may cause their body to experience a range of emotions that are difficult to manage. Some children are not aware of their thought processes, just the feelings in their body. So everyone is different and experiences life differently.
The first thing that parents can do to help their children with behaviour, is to help children with their feelings. This can happen in a few ways. Most importantly, for the parent to acknowledge the child’s feelings. For example, “Johnny, I can see that you are upset” or “Mary, you look like that is frustrating you”. This helps a child see that you are noticing their feelings, and interested in them. If your child thinks you go the “feeling” that you identified as “wrong” then I am sure that they will let you know – and you can then respond; “ Oh, ahh you are feeling annoyed – not angry”. Again, this helps the child see that you are noticing their feelings and that they are being focussed on.
A Second key strategy is to spend one on one time with your child. Many parents think that they have a good relationship with their child, but often don’t realise that this relationship is often on specific terms and with a specific focus. Many parents and children benefit from having some “special time” together each week. For example, half an hour together – where the child decides the activity and the parent is responsive. For example, rather than the parent suggesting an activity or playing the way “they” want to, in this specific activity the child takes the lead and the parent is respectful of this interactivity. In some therapeutic techniques, this is often referred to as “Special Time” within Filial Therapy or child-parent relationship therapy. A number of professionals are able to provide Parent skills training in techniques that assist the parent to be more responsive and attuned in their relationship.
Another strategy for helping children involves the parent having a consistent routine and clear boundaries. It’s important for children to feel safe and secure and a regular routine will assist with that. It can be more challenging for children when their parents are separated, for them to have a routine across both care environments – however, it can be done, particularly when parents are able to communicate and collaborate. Many children have difficulty concentrating at school, or difficulty managing their emotions, simply because they are tired or overtires. It is important for everyone in the family to have a good nights sleep.
It’s important for children and their parents to respect and care for each other. Being able to communicate feelings is essential in any relationship. Please contact me further if you would like any additional information.
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