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Taking Care of You to Better Care for Them

Rebecca Harris, Early Education Writer   •   January 22, 2020

Let's be real, parenting is incredibly challenging. It can be emotionally, physically and mentally exhausting. Arguably some of the hardest parts of parenting are handling situations where your child is upset, mad or frustrated. It can cause stress for both you and your child. Helping your child handle these negative emotions is tough but crucial in their emotional development. There are lots of strategies in doing this, but one of the most important is monitoring and controlling your own emotions during stressful situations.

While throwing tantrums or excessively crying are a completely natural part of growing up, they can be really difficult to handle as a parent. It's exhausting dealing with these negative emotions from your child, especially when you don't know what your child needs or when your child's wants are unreasonable. Try to keep in mind that the moment you and your child are experiencing will eventually pass. Look inward toward your own emotions during that time. Are you frustrated? Angry? Embarrassed? These feelings are all completely valid. What is most important is how you handle them in front of your child, since they are still learning how to handle their own feelings and are looking to you for guidance.
Staying calm while your child is losing it is easier said than done. However, it is absolutely the best thing to do in this situation. Acknowledging that you have triggers and are feeling out of control helps you make a conscious effort to look at the bigger picture and approach your child with strength and stability instead of the same negative outbursts that they are already experiencing themselves. Show your child how dealing with the situation should look: composed and secure. Be the mirror they can use as a basis. Reacting with anger and frustration toward your child will only escalate the situation further and give them more reason to act like that again in the future. Try to diffuse the situation with positivity and give them the opportunity to make better choices. Express to them that while it is okay to be upset, it is unacceptable to react physically or to scream loudly. Then give them options for the next steps they can take. For example, if they are throwing a fit about having to share a toy, they can have the choice of either sharing or moving on to a different activity. This gives your child a sense of control and helps de-escalate the situation. Managing your frustration and stating these facts to your child in a calm and controlled manner keeps you and your child from getting more upset than you both already are.

At the end of the day, frustrating moments are bound to happen. Ensuring that you are prepared to take ownership and control of how you are feeling before tackling how your child is feeling is the best option for a successful resolution. Also, don't be afraid to give yourself a time-out. Your mental health is essential in establishing a stable, healthy environment for you and your child to grow in.