Strategies to teach emotional regulation to overly emotional child - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 12 Old 04-29-2013, 06:34 AM - Thread Starter
 
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My 4 year old cries about EVERYTHING!  His feelings are hurt so easily and he takes everything so personally.  If another kid looks at him cross eyed, or someone pronounces his name wrong, or I flushed the toilet when he wanted to, or a different song came on the radio when it wasn't "supposed to" (according to him anyway) he is sobbing and whining and just can't get over it.  He will talk about it the rest of the day and the first thing when he wakes up the next morning.  

 

He has no trouble figuring out what is wrong, or using words to explain why he is upset.  He just acts like everything is life or death.  All I can find on the internet is advice about time outs, or walking away from this behavior, or the like.  I want to TEACH him how to calm himself down.  Walking away leaves him to figure it out for himself(and is not working), and dismisses the feelings he is having.  I want to give him coping techniques and thinking strategies that will help him work through his emotion and lessen the intensity he is feeling.  I'm afraid if I tell him to just "Stop it"  that he will just be bottling it up to explode later, or internalizing it causing low self esteem.  

 

Anything worked for you- techniques, strategies, role play?  Any book recommendations?  Will he just grow out of this?  

Thanks!!


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#2 of 12 Old 04-29-2013, 06:52 AM
 
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When ds was 3-4 we went through a stage where everything was just HUGE, emotionally. The cat was on his chair, his sister breathed at him, and he was wearing the wrong underpants. I found the best way to deal with it was to keep it small. The cat is allowed on chairs, if you want space where nobody breathes at you, try your own room, and which undies are the right ones, let's try and get you those.

Sometimes kids rocketing from crisis to crisis are genuinely dealing with unusual sensory issues. Sometimes, though, they need adult help in figuring out what feelings are important. They just feel everything intensely, and they have no experience with sorting. Having an adult stand by and encourage them to work through each and every feeling just bogs them down. Sometimes it's better to just keep it light - turn off the radio, point out that people cross their eyes fo reasons having nothing to do with us, ask if a rest or a snack would help.
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#3 of 12 Old 05-06-2013, 05:56 PM
 
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Raising our children Raising ourselves is a good book too.

 

my 3 year old son just started 'drama' when the baby was born 5 months ago, so i understand what u describe sounds just like ds1 lately. the lego doesn't fit how he wants it to, the sock is inside out, oh no! huge drama. but this book helps us sometimes, at least it helps me so i hope that i'm helping him too.

the other thing i realized is that since baby was born my son has watched for the first time cartoons (on netflix). they are very dramatic (compared with our boring regular daily life....) because that's how the storys go. fireman sam is one he really likes right now. he didnt even watch much, but so i'm going screen free for the past week and it is helping already. we are back to reading books and singing silly songs we make up etc. just adding that in case it might help you too?


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#4 of 12 Old 05-06-2013, 07:29 PM
 
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sorry pranava you wont like my answer.

 

time

 

patience

 

it IS a state. just like pp i too remember how dd went thru a drama stage. 

 

i would continue whatever you are doing and believe it or not one day he will get it. like a snap of the fingers he will suddenly get it. 

 

at even 4 change was hard on dd from whatever she enjoyed doing. whether tv or playing at the park. 

 

initially i remember trying to work on it. but it was a waste of effort. in time they will get it.

 

my key then was STILL making sure enough rest, enough exercise, enough food  and enough stimulation. 


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#5 of 12 Old 05-06-2013, 07:29 PM
 
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I think it's is just how some people are.
My oldest has alway been more intense than my youngest. Oldest had extremely limited screen time.

mom to 14yr dd and 4yr dd
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#6 of 12 Old 05-06-2013, 07:40 PM
 
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Subbing. I hear your frustration, and have no wonderful advice. I know many offer empathy by staring "oh, I see X happened and that made you feel Y. Let's work together to achieve Z." Sometimes this is followed by an offered hug or help to find a solution. I try this, sincerely, but it sometimes feels condescending and patronizing in the moment. It is challenging for me to get it right, but it seems to work for some.

I feel like I never really matured past this, myself. Sometimes mole hills really feel like mountains to me, and it is hard to get perspective! I hope others chime in with great wisdom that works well. smile.gif

Best wishes.
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#7 of 12 Old 05-06-2013, 07:49 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MeepyCat View Post

When ds was 3-4 we went through a stage where everything was just HUGE, emotionally. The cat was on his chair, his sister breathed at him, and he was wearing the wrong underpants. I found the best way to deal with it was to keep it small. The cat is allowed on chairs, if you want space where nobody breathes at you, try your own room, and which undies are the right ones, let's try and get you those.

Sometimes kids rocketing from crisis to crisis are genuinely dealing with unusual sensory issues. Sometimes, though, they need adult help in figuring out what feelings are important. They just feel everything intensely, and they have no experience with sorting. Having an adult stand by and encourage them to work through each and every feeling just bogs them down. Sometimes it's better to just keep it light - turn off the radio, point out that people cross their eyes fo reasons having nothing to do with us, ask if a rest or a snack would help.

I agree with post, 100%. YoungSon went through that stage, at just about the same age. One of the things we can teach our children is what to feel. Not by negating their emotions, but modeling appropriate perspectives and reactions. What matters, and what isn't such a big deal. Some kids pick it up naturally, others might need to be more explicitly taught. For my boy, it was a slow process, with calm, gentle responses like, "no big deal, let's get back to playing" or whatever. I don't see this as bottling up emotions. I see it as learning what is important and what isn't.


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#8 of 12 Old 05-07-2013, 05:59 AM - Thread Starter
 
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He does have sensory issues - I'm sure that's not helping.  He's also a big time perfectionist.  He's been known to smack himself in the face in frustration when he can't get the tune to a song right.  This kind of behavior really worries me.  I think he might have a long hard road of intense emotions to learn to navigate.  


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#9 of 12 Old 05-07-2013, 06:25 AM
 
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While he's calm, have a talk and ask him what kinds of things help him feel better (he'll probably need some guidance). Deep breaths, taking a lap around the dining room table, etc. and then when he's upset remind him to try one of HIS suggestions. Model, model, model. Don't let your emotions get the better of you! If you're upset, talk it through (I'm so frustrated, I'm going to take a deep breath to help me calm down.").

I would also ignore if he starts to perseverate. If hes bringing up the wrong song the next day just change the subject to something positive. Hope that helps.

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#10 of 12 Old 05-07-2013, 07:41 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pranava View Post

He does have sensory issues - I'm sure that's not helping.  He's also a big time perfectionist.  He's been known to smack himself in the face in frustration when he can't get the tune to a song right.  This kind of behavior really worries me.  I think he might have a long hard road of intense emotions to learn to navigate.  

 

Oh, poor kiddo!  In this situation, I think I would be looking at ways to address the sensory issues, and looking for a therapist of some kind to address the perfectionism.  I might also be seeking an evaluation for autism spectrum disorders.  You love your son, and you absolutely want to do the best possible thing for him. 

 

Many kids have a long, hard road of learning to navigate intense emotions, and it absolutely can be done.  Doesn't mean it's easy though.

 

If he was a little older, I'd suggest addressing some of the perfectionism with videos of famous singers flubbing the national anthem, but I don't think you're there yet.  (Singing is something that artists work on for years and years, to improve vocal range and control.  And you can be the best singer in the world, and still wind up out of key on "Happy Birthday.")  We have had many talks here about the importance of experimenting, and how we experiment in order to see what works, and that means some of our experiments will not go well - that doesn't mean we failed, or messed up.  We did an experiment, and now we have new information.  We also talk about how new skills take practice.  And I photocopy coloring book pages so he can start over.  We have some small dry erase boards for drama free drawing.  Sometimes it is okay to evade the drama, because everyone gets tired.

 

ETA:  I have also found that stories about frustration can help my kid place what he's feeling in context.  "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day" and "Where the Wild Things Are" are kind of great for us. 

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#11 of 12 Old 05-07-2013, 06:58 PM
 
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it has been very helpful for dd to see my own process through my own issues. i have noticed dd doesnt like to be told or lectured. but if i am transparent i have noticed she always notes it. so i do it in a very subtle way. sometimes she'd be surprised and say but ma how can you. and THAT is my opportunity to say well what else can you do. worrying about it or freaking out achieves nothing but makes you sick. i show her how i live in that emotion for a bit to figure it out but when it feels heavy i go do something to change it.

 

one thing that helped too was helping dd see the duality of life. that both coexist at the same time. so there is no good and bad. or there is always good and bad - not one or the other. everytime you make a choice to do something you also make a choice not to do the other thing. its ok for both of them to exist at the same time. 

 

i do lots of kudo talks. you can do this. you are great at it. you may not think so but i can see the potential in you. 

 

i also even now walk through my failings and my struggles to succeed. it helps dd then and now to know she is not alone. 


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#12 of 12 Old 05-07-2013, 08:56 PM
 
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My oldest daughter has some similar responses, but no sensory issues that I'm aware of.  She's one of those people who really thinks a lot on things, and so she has a very specific idea in her mind about how things are/are going to be.  She's then often very disappointed when things turn out differently.  She's also a bit of a perfectionist, or at least she often doesn't like trying to do things when she knows that they won't turn out perfectly.  I think that she will simply grow out of some of this - it's already changed so much in the past two years (she's 5) - but like you, I wanted to teach her some coping skills.  What works for us, is if I have short simple lines that apply in multiple situations that I can repeat to her.  Over time, she's come to recognize them, and her responses have become quicker.  For example:

 

She's been looking forward to a birthday party or a visit with her grade school age cousins, but  she's very shy, even in familiar settings.  I might say, "I know you've been looking forward to this.  I also know that you'll feel disappointed if you didn't play (at the party/with the cousins) the way you wanted to." She now often jumps up and goes to play when she hears me say this.

 

She gets frustrated with drawing or writing or trying to do some fine-motor thing.  I've started saying, "The only way we get better at things is to practice and to try to enjoy them.  That's how people get better at things."  I might also say, "You don't have to do this.  If you do this, I want you to enjoy it."

 

She can get so excited, days or even weeks in advance, about something like baking Christmas cookies, and then spend the entire time frustrated and disappointed with what we're doing or what she's able to help with.  "You may not help with this cooking/baking if it's going to involve whining and crying.  You may help if you're having fun."

 

Anyway, some of these lines I turn to pretty frequently, and like I said, she responds to them more quickly each time.  If she's having a total meltdown, I might say these things during the meltdown and after she's calmed down.  

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