Thursday, May 16, 2013

Help Your Preschooler Manage His Emotions

Back in September I shared a particularly difficult post about my son's aggressive tendencies but I haven't said much more. I've consciously chosen not to write much about the topic, first and foremost because I have to keep my son safe, but also because its a lot of trial and error and I want to make sure I'm sharing the efforts that have been most successful for us.

I think its essential for parents who are walking a similar path, to know they are not alone and I think its equally, important for other parents to get a glimpse inside the struggles of a family whose child doesn't act quite like everyone else.

The Hubs and I have put considerable effort into finding techniques and resources that help us, help our boy. We have had a doctor identify that what we are seeing is likely tied to ADD and anxiety, both of which are prevalent in our families. We are taking this journey one step at a time and we have seen great strides in Bolt's ability to manage his emotions and frustrations over the past few months.

It's a long road and there is no quick fix but here are two simple changes that are helping us, help Bolt.
Help Your Toddler Manage His Emotions
Don't Acknowledge Negative Behaviour, Correct It - Instead of simply saying 'Stop Hitting Your Brother' and expecting my preschooler to express his needs in a non-physical way, I am learning to lead him by example and show him how to behave both physically and verbally.

I start with the physical: I take his hand and gently stroke his brothers arm while I state in a calm, even voice, 'THIS is how we touch other people, gentle hands'.

Then I give him the verbal language he needs to communicate his needs and feelings; 'Next time you can just tell Simba, I don't want a hug right now'.

End of lesson, I try and leave the positive behaviour I want him to emulate in the forefront of his mind and I'm always cautious not to overwhelm him.

Find Books that Speak to Your Child's Needs - Bolt has always loved books and they allow us to talk about feelings and behaviours in an indirect way that doesn't offend, aggravate or alarm him.

My absolute favourite, MUST-have book right now is The Way I Feel by Janan Cain. Each two page spread addresses a different feeling with an expressive illustration and a simple, concise poem to describe the emotion. If your child has trouble expressing emotions, this book is amazing.

I'm also a huge fan of The Kissing Hand and A Pocket Full of Kisses by Audrey Penn for separation anxiety and sibling jealousy respectively. These books are about Chester the Raccoon who is even one step further removed from my boy's reality, a fact I think Bolt really loves.

The classic Little Critter books have also really been resonating with our boy as of late; I Was So Mad was one of the very first books we found about anger that Bolt really seemed to relate to. I love that there are so many old and new Little Critter stories, so you can get one relevant to almost any situation.

As Bolt get's comfortable with the books he starts to ask why the characters feel a particular emotion and before I know it we are having brief conversations about feelings, which occasionally lead to more personal, incredibly candid discussions.

These books have worked wonders for us, if they don't fit your families needs, find ones that do. I promise you, its worth the effort.

We have made a number of other changes in order to help our family find its groove and I promise to share more of them later. But for now, I'm curious, how do you help your children manage their emotions?