How To Protect Toddlers From Negative Emotions

There’s no way around it — everybody gets mad, and your kids are no exception. At the core, children get angry about the same things adults get angry about: not getting enough of what they do want, or getting too much of what they don’t. Try as you might, it’s impossible to protect your kids from feeling negative emotions. Your job as a parent is to teach your kids how to pinpoint what they’re feeling and why, and process their anger in a healthy way.

Verbalize

Make it clear that everyone gets angry, and it’s a perfectly natural emotion. Assist your children with verbally processing their emotions, so they learn not to keep painful feelings bottled up inside. Ask probing questions so your kids can analyze their own emotions, such as, “What made you angry?”, “Where do you feel angry?”, “Does your anger have a color?”, “Does your anger have a sound?” Ask, “What do you think will make you feel better?” to help your child learn how to self-soothe.

Empathize

Give your children real-life examples of friends and loved ones who have also felt anger, so they understand they aren’t alone in their feelings. Say, “Remember when Mommy was stuck in traffic yesterday and yelled out that bad word?” or “Remember how your big sister slammed the door?” Relating to your children through your and other people’s experiences could help replace their anger with feelings of belonging and being understood.

Accept It

Accept how your children feel without trying to immediately rationalize or ameliorate their emotions. Even if you’re frustrated and overwhelmed, try your best to show patience and tolerance. Recognize that you don’t have to say anything at all — your presence is enough. Sit with your children (if they don’t prefer to be alone) to show that it’s fine to experience emotions without having to manipulate or alter them. Give your kids permission to feel their feelings.

Provide a Healthy Outlet

Anger is often coupled with a feeling of helplessness. Tell your children that they have the power to channel their anger into an activity that might make them feel better. Suggest harmless outlets for their anger, such as going into their bedroom and yelling at the top of their lungs, punching pillows or stuffed animals, scribbling with crayons or stomping up and down the stairs. Provide boundaries for your children, however – make it clear that they can punch their pillows but not each other, and they can scribble on the paper but not the walls. Explain that the trick to venting anger is to do so without hurting another person or damaging valuable property.

Create a Distraction

Get your kids’ minds off their troubles with happy distractions. Put on their most beloved movie or play their favorite song. Tickle them. Make a mouthwatering snack or do a chipmunk impersonation. Make it your personal mission to turn their frowns upside down.

Practice What You Preach

Your kids take their cues from you. No matter what you say, ultimately, they will do what you do. Show them how to process their anger by processing your own anger in the healthiest way possible. Admit when you’re feeling angry and discuss your feelings, rather than trying to hide your true emotions from your children. If you don’t want to go into details, just say, “Mommy is having a bad day.” Through your example, your kids will recognize that acknowledging and vocalizing their bad feelings is a crucial step toward feeling better.

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