Help with strong emotions/overstimulation in 4 year old - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 10 Old 01-20-2014, 06:19 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I have a sensitive little girl who will be 4 in a few months, and I could really use some tips for helping her learn to cope with her strong emotions.  When she gets upset, she often tells me that she doesn't know how to stop crying, or she'll try to calm down by clenching her teeth and grunting through sobs and then she just gets frustrated that she can't calm down and gets even more upset.  I try to have her take deep breaths when she's really upset, but often she says that she can't.  Sometimes counting with her helps, but not always.  I feel like she's ready to be learning some better coping skills than just screaming about everything, but at the same time I don't want her to feel like she has to stifle herself.  Poor kid is already crying every day because she knows that some time in the next year or two we are going to move.  She's just a really sensitive little kiddo, and I know she's going to struggle with that if I don't help her learn some good tools for helping herself calm down.

 

We also have a specific situation that's a little different and becoming a big problem.  On Fridays, we babysit DD's 2 year old cousin at our house.  We've been doing this since Cousin was a newborn, and it has regularly been the time when my DD displays her absolute worst behavior.  I can't even quite describe it other than simply out of control.  The only time I put her in time out is on Cousin day - because she is totally out of her mind with her cousin there all day.  The during the day behavior has gotten a bit better this year, but now the worst part of the day is when my sister comes to pick up Cousin in the afternoon.  She generally stays to chat/play for 10 - 15 minutes or so, and my DD goes WILD.  She's a loose cannon, bossy, helter-skelter, a danger to herself and others.  Last week she threw a harmonica at Cousin's head - and I know that she was completely unaware that her cousin was in the line of her throw.  She was so out of control!  This is definitely an overstimulation thing.  I can't reason with her during this times, can barely talk to her at all, she can't control herself, I can't control her, I just don't know how to help her stay grounded during these times.  My sister thinks that the uncertainty of it plays a role - the anticipation/anxiety of them leaving, but not really knowing when that will happen.  How can I help my daughter deal with this while still getting to enjoy her aunt's short visit?

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#2 of 10 Old 01-21-2014, 02:40 PM
 
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Hi newmammalizzy,

 

I have zero advice for you. But please take an internet hug:

 

I'm going to sub again like your other threads, because I can't help feel our children are very, very similar. I think it's difficult to find advice sometimes unless the advice-giver also has a sensitive/intense child. I find that anyway. My family are pretty dismissive of me and my issues with kiddo...I just don't think they understand why everything, or anything for that matter, could be, or become such a big deal. In our house there are LOTS of big deals. Some get sorted...some are grown out of....but lo! and behold - new one's take their place.

 

Anyway - empathy. I'm looking forward to reading the responses.

 

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#3 of 10 Old 01-22-2014, 05:36 AM
 
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I would just let her cry. It's good to cry, stay with her and let her get it all out. She will learn early enough to "suppress" her feelings to hid her vulnerable side. I actually would encourage her to get it all out and then shower her with love. She is only 4 years old and at home is the place where she can be herself and accepted the way she is. Has she expressed the wish to learn to calm herself?  I'm just learning to handle this as well. I can recommend the book "Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids" by Dr. Laura Markham.

 

Just throwing it out there, no idea about your family situation, etc. With her cousin, could it be jealousy? Maybe she has now managed to "suppress" her feelings during her cousin's visit during the day but when his mother comes to pick him up she just can't wait any longer to be alone with you and want's them to leave? That's at least what my child would do :o

 

No expert here just a fellow mama. About the move, a move 1-2 years away is an eternity for a 4 year old. Maybe you can show her the new place/area that you are going to move to and help her to get to know it so it's not that scary anymore? Tell her about positive exciting things that she will do there? Read books about moving etc.

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#4 of 10 Old 01-22-2014, 08:56 PM
 
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We've moved a lot and part of my advice is to NOT talk about the move in front of her, and not allow other people to either. It is just stressing her out and accomplishes nothing. (I will eventually die, but if people talked about it all the time around me, I would be a basketcase. It is similar in that even though it is true, it is easier to be happy if you don't think about it all the time).

 

Second, telling her to take deep breaths is good, even though she isn't getting it yet. She is so little, may be using her finger as a prop would help -- pretend it is a flower and smell the flower, then pretend it is a candle and blow out the candle. Go back and forth between pretending it is a flower and a candle.

 

Stretching is good, and teaching her some basic yoga poses and doing them with her, even when she isn't upset, can help. They are most likely to be able to help her calm down if she also does them when she is already calm.

 

Getting a drink of water can help, or going outside and getting fresh air. Some children find jumping helps sooth them. Just jumping on the floor is good, a small trampoline helps some kids find more balance, and a jumpy ball is good for some kids.

 

I think there is a difference between what to do in the moment to help come back from the upset, and what to do to avoid the upset, and I think tackling both would be helpful for her.

 

As far as you know, does she have sensory issues or any other complicating issues? I have a daughter who has mild special needs and is intense and anxious. If there is a root cause, figuring it out and addressing can be very helpful. At the same time, some kids are *just* emotionally intense without it being a part of anything else.


but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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#5 of 10 Old 01-22-2014, 09:31 PM
 
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Some kids just really need routine. My daughter has a lot of anxiety that started to rear its ugly head at 3, peaked at 4 and seems to be plateauing. She is a kid that needs her routine and needs help with transitions. Having quiet time has helped a lot, and her therapist had us make her own picture chart showing her different activities throughout the day, which she gets to change as needed. Maybe having her own chart with a picture of cousin and/or auntie to show when they are going to be arriving/leaving?
My DD is not really keen on a lot of traditional relaxation, either. Once she's winding up, its hard to stop her. Sometimes she just needs to scream, so the rule is she has to do it in her room and cannot hurt herself or anyone else. I think your sister is right - she may be having a harder time because she's already been getting in trouble for misbehavior and so its become a trigger. I have had to change my subconscious behaviors a lot with DD because I realized I was starting to anticipate the bad behavior and she was feeling it.
Is it an option to make things short and sweet when your sis comes to pick up her LO? Or maybe your kiddo can have some quiet time to herself start before she gets there, so she's able to wind down? If its any consolation, 3 is apparently the worst age for regulating emotions, but they grow out of it!
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#6 of 10 Old 01-25-2014, 07:09 PM
 
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Daniel Tiger, Season 1, Episode 4.  

"When you feel so mad, that you want to roar, take a deep breath, and count to 4."

It's on Netflix, Amazon, and youtube.

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#7 of 10 Old 01-25-2014, 07:26 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Grover View Post
 

Hi newmammalizzy,

 

I have zero advice for you. But please take an internet hug:

 

 

Thanks!

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by xDaisyx View Post
 

I would just let her cry. It's good to cry, stay with her and let her get it all out. She will learn early enough to "suppress" her feelings to hid her vulnerable side.

 

I think this is exactly what I'm afraid of, which is why I'm looking for ways to help her cope.  I'd really like to help her learn how to feel her feelings, express them and keep herself in control, before she gets to a point where she's out in situations where she may be encouraged to suppress her feelings. 

 

Just throwing it out there, no idea about your family situation, etc. With her cousin, could it be jealousy? Maybe she has now managed to "suppress" her feelings during her cousin's visit during the day but when his mother comes to pick him up she just can't wait any longer to be alone with you and want's them to leave? That's at least what my child would do :o

 

Honestly, I think it's a crazy mix of emotions, one of which being exactly what you describe.  But then at the same time, she says she's upset because her cousin's leaving!  And part of it, I think, is just that there's a lot of stuff going on at the same time at that time of day - I'm trying to chat with my sister, DD's trying to talk to my sister, cousin is trying to play with DD... She really doesn't do well when there's a lot of disparate stuff going on.

 

No expert here just a fellow mama. About the move, a move 1-2 years away is an eternity for a 4 year old. Maybe you can show her the new place/area that you are going to move to and help her to get to know it so it's not that scary anymore? Tell her about positive exciting things that she will do there? Read books about moving etc.

 

The thing is, we have NO CLUE where we're moving or when!  She just was asking a ton of questions and somehow it came up that we weren't going to live in our current house forever. 

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Linda on the move View Post
 

We've moved a lot and part of my advice is to NOT talk about the move in front of her, and not allow other people to either. It is just stressing her out and accomplishes nothing. (I will eventually die, but if people talked about it all the time around me, I would be a basketcase. It is similar in that even though it is true, it is easier to be happy if you don't think about it all the time).

 

That's funny.  Because I've been fielding daily death questions from this child since she was just over 2.  "Am I going to die before you, Mommy?"  She's worried that I'll die first and then she'll be alone.  Believe me.  I do NOT bring this stuff up. 

 

Second, telling her to take deep breaths is good, even though she isn't getting it yet. She is so little, may be using her finger as a prop would help -- pretend it is a flower and smell the flower, then pretend it is a candle and blow out the candle. Go back and forth between pretending it is a flower and a candle.

 

Stretching is good, and teaching her some basic yoga poses and doing them with her, even when she isn't upset, can help. They are most likely to be able to help her calm down if she also does them when she is already calm.

 

Getting a drink of water can help, or going outside and getting fresh air. Some children find jumping helps sooth them. Just jumping on the floor is good, a small trampoline helps some kids find more balance, and a jumpy ball is good for some kids.

 

I think there is a difference between what to do in the moment to help come back from the upset, and what to do to avoid the upset, and I think tackling both would be helpful for her.

 

These are great tips.  Thank you.  I'll definitely try the flower/candle analogy, and try to get her to work on some of these things when she's calm.  It's not even always upset that's the problem.  Excitement, anticipation, and uncertainty are equally problematic, and sometimes hard to avoid.  For instance, I try not to tell her about fun plans until the last minute because she gets so excited that she's impossible to deal with.  But then if she senses some event that she doesn't know about, she gets all worked up from suspense.  Either way, all of these things will be useful. 

 

As far as you know, does she have sensory issues or any other complicating issues? I have a daughter who has mild special needs and is intense and anxious. If there is a root cause, figuring it out and addressing can be very helpful. At the same time, some kids are *just* emotionally intense without it being a part of anything else.

 

I've given this a lot of consideration and think, at this point, that she's just a very sensitive kid with a lot going on in her little mind.   I'm continuing to watch her, and curious to see how she does as she starts moving out into the world a little more.

 

 

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by curebaby View Post

Some kids just really need routine. My daughter has a lot of anxiety that started to rear its ugly head at 3, peaked at 4 and seems to be plateauing. She is a kid that needs her routine and needs help with transitions. Having quiet time has helped a lot, and her therapist had us make her own picture chart showing her different activities throughout the day, which she gets to change as needed. Maybe having her own chart with a picture of cousin and/or auntie to show when they are going to be arriving/leaving? Ah, yes!  We have a picture chart for "normal" days, but having a special one for Cousin Day might help. 
My DD is not really keen on a lot of traditional relaxation, either. Once she's winding up, its hard to stop her. Sometimes she just needs to scream, so the rule is she has to do it in her room and cannot hurt herself or anyone else. I think your sister is right - she may be having a harder time because she's already been getting in trouble for misbehavior and so its become a trigger. I have had to change my subconscious behaviors a lot with DD because I realized I was starting to anticipate the bad behavior and she was feeling it.  I've noticed this with my DD, too.  I'm better at handling it when it's just me and her, since I'm not all that used to having two kiddos around and tend to get more easily frazzled.  I should try to be more conscious of this on Cousin Day. 

Is it an option to make things short and sweet when your sis comes to pick up her LO? Or maybe your kiddo can have some quiet time to herself start before she gets there, so she's able to wind down? If its any consolation, 3 is apparently the worst age for regulating emotions, but they grow out of it!
I'm seeing a big improvement already, as she's getting closer to 4.  She seems to be through the "screamy-threes," but I know a lot of this is just how she is, so I'm hoping to take advantage of this rather calm developmental period to help her learn some tools. 
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#8 of 10 Old 01-27-2014, 04:20 PM
 
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Hi again,

 

I just wanted to jot down some thoughts....

 

Quote:

I think this is exactly what I'm afraid of, which is why I'm looking for ways to help her cope.  I'd really like to help her learn how to feel her feelings, express them and keep herself in control, before she gets to a point where she's out in situations where she may be encouraged to suppress her feelings. 

 

It sounds like you're really doing your best to help her...and that she is doing her very best to help herself. It may be that she is a bit older - but ours has not reached this stage yet. Our LO will get worked up (be it a big or small thing) and then KNOW she needs to calm down, and instead of allowing us to comfort her or another standard option, she has chosen 'milk' (in a bottle) followed by a 'monkey video' (Curious George). We really hate that she feels the need to do this every time she's upset (most of the time it happens after/during genuine upset...but occasionally, we get played and she gets her milk and video after a tiny bump to the head...hmmm)...but, on the other hand, she does come out the other side of her milk and video, a calm/changed girl. But what a crutch! Almost daily I'm trying to help her find alternatives....but she just doesn't want to know. (I hope she's not watching Curious George when she fails her first drivers test or whatever...I'm hopefully assuming not!?)

I understand completely the urge to help her MORE...but it also sounds like you're doing a great job so far. Take some heart.

 

I was wondering what your LO does to self-soothe....if anything. Is there a special toy? A special song or something...? A special place in the house? Does she do cuddles? Does she want to be near you...? Or alone? (Ours won't be alone - but hates to be touched when mad/sad).

In either the Spirited or Power Struggles book I read about taking them by the hand for a little walk to walk out the big emotions. This doesn't work with mine unfortunately...but maybe worth a try if you haven't?

 

I'm totally there on the warnings etc. Ours cannot tolerate any surprises whatsoever. Subsequently, I put up a little calendar on the fridge showing the two preschool days of the week. On one bad morning, she ripped it off, screwed it up...and put in the bin. It's now a mummy-only calendar that I fish out of a drawer when she inevitably asks if it's a 'school day' or not.

 

 

That's funny.  Because I've been fielding daily death questions from this child since she was just over 2.  "Am I going to die before you, Mommy?"  She's worried that I'll die first and then she'll be alone.  Believe me.  I do NOT bring this stuff up. 

 

Wow. We get lots and lots of this too....

"I hope I get to go to the zoo before I die."

"When I die, will you miss me?"

"Will I get to have another birthday before I die?"

Etc. etc. (Occasionally, it's spooky.)

 

Quote:

These are great tips.  Thank you.  I'll definitely try the flower/candle analogy, and try to get her to work on some of these things when she's calm.

 

This is a great little trick. Mine seems interested when she is calm. But I tried to get her to do it when upset yesterday....and....NOOOO WAAAAY.

 

One thing we're trying here is working on Mummy's stuff. I'm getting her involved in helping me not to shout as much. I also get her to remind me to blow out the candle (or breathe or whatever...) when *I'm* frustrated.

It's not necessarily your issue at all, I can't really see it in your posts....but we have a bit of a problem with possibly not modelling things very well for her. If we get super-uber-worked-up....we shout. My partner and I are trying to be calmer.

 

Is she a perfectionist?

I think that comes into play with us. We get frustration at very high levels that escalate very quickly if she feels she is not doing something 'right' We have no idea where she got this from specifically as we're very relaxed no-pressure kind of people, though we are both a little perfectionistic, and to be fair I'm a bit of a routine-nazi. She will stop trying things almost as soon as she starts them because she 'can't' do them well enough. This covers a HUGE range of things throughout the day. It's very intense for her....bless.

Frustration often gets expressed as anger. Lately she has even resorted to hitting. It is difficult to watch and deal with - but she goes even more mental at attempts to cuddle or soothe....or even just talking sometimes. Sometimes it's wisest for us to be quiet and ride it out a little.

I do personally worry that our LO will get behind somehow by not allowing herself to make mistakes. She can write her own name and a couple of other words...but rarely does it without rubbing it out - or having a meltdown about it not being 'perfect'. Sigh.

 

Anyway - I don't have any advice for this one, and it may not apply to you....but if anyone else has any thoughts?

 

Quote:

I've given this a lot of consideration and think, at this point, that she's just a very sensitive kid with a lot going on in her little mind.   I'm continuing to watch her, and curious to see how she does as she starts moving out into the world a little more.

 

I remember reading in another thread of yours that your daughter is bright. I think this also comes into play with what you're experiencing. Our 3 and a half year old speaks and has the vocab of a five year old. (She's also in 5-year-old sized clothes...very tall...but I don't think that makes too much of a difference to things except bigger kids try and play with her at the park sometimes and she doesn't know what to do!) She tries to DO the things that five year olds do. She melts down though....like a 3 and a half year old. But more so, and more intensely perhaps from what I read/see generally.

It's all the thinking I suspect. Thinking, thinking.....thinking....THINKING....and talking....talking....TALKING....All. The. Time. Her emotions are not nearly sophisticated enough to keep up with her mental machinations and her ambitions - at least that's how I see it.

I wish I had a magic wand that I could wave to get her to take a mental and emotional time-out every hour or so....but I don't.

But then again....her magic wand is milk and curious george. Maybe she knows herself better than we know her....or maybe we are being awful parents by not digging deeper, and trying harder.

 

Maybe yours feels the pressure of knowing that something should or could be done (with the strong emotions) but is frustrated at not knowing what exactly (eta: which is exactly what you've said really). In the heat of the moment...it's very difficult to take on board a technique - but it's also hard to practice a technique when calm in hope it will be used later when it's really needed.

 

How to help them ease their 'self-pressure' is one of those million dollar questions. They seem so hard on themselves sometimes.

 

 

I'm seeing a big improvement already, as she's getting closer to 4.  She seems to be through the "screamy-threes," but I know a lot of this is just how she is, so I'm hoping to take advantage of this rather calm developmental period to help her learn some tools. 

 

I hope someone else steps in and gives you more on this - because whilst it's one thing to accept the nature of your child (intense, sensitive, spirited....whatever) - it's another thing entirely to feel like you're adequately supporting them - or suspect you're not. It's actually really confusing (well, it is for me anyway) - as to whether she is being harmed by allowing her to be a little too extreme....whether we should be creating more boundaries and/or offering more alternatives. But that's the thing isn't it? What are the alternatives? 

 

Though it does sound like you must be on the right track - since she is improving!

 

 

Keep us posted.

 

G

x

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#9 of 10 Old 01-27-2014, 06:01 PM
 
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Two things that come to mind #1 I wouldn't talk about the move especially given the broad time frame!
#2 when your sister arrives have you tried telling her from the get-go Auntie is staying for 15 minutes and then she's leaving? Then tell your sister to maybe give a 5 min warning before she leaves.
I do agree with pp as in let her cry! I was an emotional kid and people would put me down for crying and it made me more sad and upset! Not saying you are putting her down but that was my experience. My daughter is very emotional and while trust me I don't have it figured out, I just tell her it's ok to cry and be sad and upset but it's not ok to yell and throw fits! (Not sure if your little one yells and throws fits lol) I think expressing emotions are good as long as some self control is taught, like no hitting, yelling, name calling. But crying to me is a release that should not be held in.

DH 31; Me 30; DD 5; DS 1; Baby due Dec 17th
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#10 of 10 Old 02-17-2014, 08:46 PM
 
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My son is similar, only he throws things, screams, tears up paper, and pees when he's out of control. I would LOVE it if it were just crying. But it's not.

I'd say he is a highly sensitive person, perfectionist, and high energy. Worse, I'm similar. I feel so terrible that I can't always demonstrate how to manage strong emotions. And we can feed off eachother, making us both crazy.

I don't have a great strategy. But I've found that he needs activity - plenty of exercise. He needs routine. He needs to feel connected to me/ loved. Punishment makes it worse, he just throws more or destroys more stuff. Talking, hugs, breathing, yoga, etc help but don't always prevent it. The times when he's the worst are when something's wrong - he's tired, hungry, sick. Distraction can work but only about half the time.

I'm just hoping he'll eventually grow out of it. But honestly I have my doubts.
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