Have you ever been blown over by the intensity of feeling and distress when your child completely loses the plot over a seemingly simple disappointment like being told she can’t have an ice block just before dinner?
Some parents walk around on eggshells not quite knowing what situation will trigger an uncontrollable meltdown. It might be not being able to find the right clip for their hair, not having any of their favourite cereal left or maybe even not being the first one to reach the doorbell and ring it. A certain fear lurks quietly amongst these parents as they select which events to go to and which ones pose too many opportunities for a meltdown.
- Video: Helping your kids navigate their big feelings
- Video: Say goodbye to whining
- Helping kids manage disappointment
The truth is that some children are less well-equipped to handle frustration, disappointment or losing – just like some children find it harder to learn to read or ride a bike. Maturity plays a part. A child has not yet learned to process and balance life’s knock-backs. They don’t yet have the advantage an adult has of drawing on life’s experience which might have told them that they will be okay – and this feeling will pass.
These children move rapidly from hearing something disappointing, to interpreting it in a catastrophic way. “I can’t have an ice block,” turns into, “I will never have another ice block in my life – I am never allowed anything ever that I want.” This all takes place in a nano-second.
Equip them to think differently
Children need help to know their ‘thinking’ is getting the better of them and that they can cope better if they think in a different way. Just as their thoughts can take them down to ground zero fast – they have the ability to keep steady by telling themselves the truth.
A good way to illustrate this is by drawing a two ladders. One represents the quick ride down, and the other the ride up. The ride down sounds like, “I never get any ice blocks. I will never get an ice block ever again. No one gives me anything. This is the worst day of my life.” The ride up sounds like, “I am disappointed that I am not allowed an ice block. I can’t have an ice block this time, but that does mean I can’t have one some other time. I could ask Mum when she thinks I can have one so I can start looking forward to it.”
This is systematically working alongside a child to help them process the challenge – just as you would a child who is struggling with reading. They need our patience and understanding. It also helps to remember what it felt like to be a child.
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