Written by Miranda Hodge – Parenting coach, consultant & teacher

Big Feelings and Kids-and why you need to know this

Big feelings and kids go together like cheese and a biscuit-or like water and a duck if you prefer a less foodie analogy.

But why do they get so emotional over such little things?

Those little things are actually quite big things to our kids. Parents just often don’t see things from the same level.

Our kids are, funnily enough, still developing.

This means that not only are they starting to grow taller physically, their brain is still growing. And the centre for emotional regulation, the prefrontal cortex, is very much underdeveloped when our kids are young.

In fact, the prefrontal cortex is not fully developed until age 25, which explains a lot of emotional behaviour in children and adolescents-and even sometimes in what we term fully-grown adults.

According to Passer & Smith in their book Psychology: The Science of Mind and Behaviour (2013):

   ‘The prefrontal cortex…is the seat of the so-called executive functions. Executive functions are mental abilities, such as goal-setting, judgement, strategic planning and impulse control…’

Aside from all those extremely helpful functions, the latter is the one we see most in our small children when their big emotions come to the fore.

If our kids struggle with their big feelings, they are doing so because they aren’t developmentally ready or able to manage them yet.

Simply put, it isn’t their fault.

But do we need to just wait until they are 25 to teach them emotional management skills?

Of course not. We need to teach, encourage, model and expect that our kids will be learning to manage their own emotions.

The key word is learning.

We all fail when we’re learning, or it wouldn’t be learning.

And jumping down our kids’ throats isn’t helping the learning.

Staying as calm as possible, (even through gritted teeth for the first bit if you have to), and having a good positive attitude towards our children, means they shouldn’t feel condemned for their big feelings that are developmentally normal.

This is what mums usually want- a child who is developing healthy strategies for managing their emotions, and strategies to help them get there.

Do you feel like you are able to share emotional strategies with your children? It’s just as important as anything else developmental.

3 Quick Strategies to gently support your child in a tantrum:

– Make sure they’re safe and give them space

– If they want a hug, be available to give them one but ask first!

– Or, with that extreme active anger that sometimes happens, get them active. Stomp together, run, trampoline if they want to. This usually calms them a lot-then you can talk later.

To learn more or book a zoom coaching session visit Smart mama, smart kids

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