Big emotions can feel like a big problem. When big emotions take over little ones, it can easily turn into meltdowns and tantrums. While it can seem that emotions are the problem, emotions themselves are healthy and natural. Feelings are morally neutral and are a way to tell us if we are safe or in danger. Rather than thinking about feelings as “good” or “bad,” we can think of them as feelings of comfort or discomfort.
Feelings are not good or bad, it is the action that follows that can be good or bad. In order to manage our feelings, we must first learn to identify them. Some emotions can masquerade as other feelings. For example, hurt or sadness can often pretend to be anger. Creating space to get curious about our emotions is a necessary first step in identifying and addressing the root of our feelings. One way to practice emotional awareness is to do a body scan. This helps identify where in your body you may be holding tension due to anger, stress, etc. Try a 2-minute body scan.
Feelings are not good or bad, it is the action that follows that can be good or bad.
Big emotions create big energy. When overcome with emotions, our brains and bodies get stuck in survival mode. In order to avoid or get out of survival mode, we must take a step back as soon as we notice we are feeling overwhelmed. Some ways to express our emotional energy in a healthy way can include doing chores, going for a walk, or listening to music. Taking deep breaths can also trick our bodies into believing we are calm, thereby changing our physical response. Once the emotional energy is redirected and dispersed, we can more effectively address the cause of our emotions.
Realizing it is difficult to address and manage emotions as adults allows us to approach our children with more compassion. After all, if we struggle with managing emotions, how can we expect our children to manage theirs all the time? Rather, as L. R. Knost states, “When our little people are overwhelmed by big emotions, it’s our job to share our calm, not join their chaos.”
Information adapted from the Nurturing Parenting programs