Originally Posted by pitchfork
Anyone out there have success with teaching/kids learning "separation of affect"?
I think 3 year olds have limited capability for separation of affect. IME, you definitely can work on it with a 3 year old and help them improve separation of affect, but a 3 year old will still be pretty emotional. Developmental ability plays a big role in separation of affect. Make sure your expectations remain realistic.
Anyway, what we've found helpful in terms of helping ours learn separation of affect is to first begin by helping them learn methods of relaxing. Begin in a pretty calm time, because learning isn't going to happen when they're already very emotional. Practice things like deep breathing, do some muscle relaxation exercises, guided imagery. Try lots of things on and notice what helps your child feel relaxed: physical activity, visualization, breathing exercises, yoga, etc. Talk together about how your dc's body is feeling and what emotions your dc is feeling during these activities. Make a list of some "feel-good" activities, maybe some that are quiet-down activities (like breathing) and some that are physical activities (like running or riding a trike) and some sensory activities (one favorite here was a special "indoor sandbox" only used for relaxing/calming down).
Once you've worked on calming/relaxing in this way, move on to trying out some calm-down activities when your dc is a little bit
(not a lot) tense/angry/upset/whatever. This is when I like lists, even picture lists, to let the child choose an activity (but too many things to choose from is overwhelming when upset). I might say something like "we'll talk about it when you've calmed down a little. We can't solve this if you're too upset. Let's help you calm down." Do the calming activity together at first, breathing together or drawing together or whatever. Be calm and encouraging, and give positive feedback when your dc attempts the calm-down activity (maybe right at that moment, maybe a little later after they're calm-whatever your child responds to best).
Importantly, I find that modeling separation of affect myself is a very important piece.
We found that in general, taking notice of and talking about emotions regularly really helps. Notice the happy feelings, the unpleasant ones, they physical states of tired/hungry/etc and how those affect our emotions (I feel cranky when I'm really tired). Talk about these things. Talk about how you, the parent, felt when something frustrating happened (not when you were frustrated with your child) and what you did to stay calm and solve the problem.
Be prepared that this process will take plenty of time and plenty of patience on your part. But your child will learn.