The current Covid19 world has become a new way of life. Some of us have accepted and adjusted to it well, while few can’t take it any longer and are seeking help from family, friends, or in extreme cases, from therapists. And these are people who completely grasp the gravity of the situation. But what about those who don’t even understand what is going around.
Kids Are not Aware of their Emotions
Why have they been locked inside the house away from friends, school, extended family, the playground, and playdates? The emotional development of a child is in the nascent stage at preschool years. Then why do we assume that kids are happy in their world? That they are supposed to behave and be considerate towards their parents who are slogging by tripled work.
When My Daughter had it Enough
My daughter would usually sleep after listening to a bedtime story or two. But one night, she kept pestering me for more and more stories. After some 10-12 extempore sessions, I had to get over with it. Sternly I said, “No more stories. Go to sleep right now.” Instead of Good Night or I love you, Mumma, I saw my little girl burst out in tears. It seemed like she wanted to seize the moment forever in her safe-haven. She had a plethora of emotions going inside but just didn’t know what those feeling were and how to deal with them. She clutched me and continued to sob. “Mumma I want to cry” is all she said. I looked at her, appalled.
How I Handled her Emotional Breakdown
Quickly took her in my arms and made her feel safe and loved. And no, I did not ask her to “stop crying”; neither did I say “Everything will be fine” or worse “Stop all these tantrums and go to sleep!” She needed comfort, but predominantly I had to tell her what she was going through and how to express it and manage it.
Tips for Emotional Development in Early Childhood
Below are certain things I keep in mind to help my daughter’s emotional learning.
Ascertain the Trigger for These Emotions
As a preschooler, she misses her routine of going to school, meeting friends, and then visiting the play park. She is bored, uncertain, overwhelmed, stressed, and anxious. Therefore, it is my responsibility to access the situation, think of reasons why she is behaving in such a way, and help her identify and name those emotions.
Lockdown or otherwise, the emotional development of a child takes time, and young kids cannot identify many emotions. They usually associate unpleasant emotions with sadness or anger, whereas a pleasant emotion as happiness. They can experience all sorts of feelings well within a day. Parents, therefore, need to be conscientious and emotionally understanding to aid emotional development in early childhood. We need to decipher what could be probably going on in their mind and teach them to recognize and express the various emotional responses.
Hear Your Kids
I know you are frustrated, exhausted, and overwhelmed and just wish to sleep peacefully before you hit the routine again through the tedious days at home. But your kids need you more than your sleep. They are helpless, they are confined, and they don’t even know what exactly this feeling is.
Let them speak up, ask questions, and seek answers. Suggest possible reasons for their emotional meltdown that you can think of. Let them confirm if these indeed were the reasons. Sometimes even unnoticeable things concern them, like a playful disagreement between parents, a broken or a missing toy, or not being heard. Let them tell their stories. Something might come out of it. Tell them this is normal and that everyone goes through it.
Walk them through different situations that we find ourselves in. Let the child connect with those circumstances and then tell them how you dealt with the issues. Of course, these could be imaginary situations that the child can understand and mull over. Don’t ever shut them up while they are going through an emotional breakdown. Never blame them for being overdramatic or for throwing a tantrum. For the emotional development of a child, try to understand the reason for this unruly behavior.
Label the Feelings
A younger kid will only identify a few emotions. For instance, my daughter is either happy or sad and sometimes angry. Other times she knows something is wrong but can’t describe it. As an adult we can name so many emotions like joyfulness, frustration, jealousy, disappointment, and anxiety, to name a few. After making your child understand the reason for the way he or she is feeling, next teach the child to identify and name the feelings to cope with them. You can use stories or instances to help them recognize and give names to emotions. Remember, understanding the emotions is imperative to emotional development in early childhood.
Stop Throwing Tantrums yourself
We always blame kids for throwing tantrums. But on contemplation, you will find that this lockdown has left us parents no different. We too sometimes end up throwing more tantrums than the kids. Every time a child doesn’t want to eat a particular dish or wear a particular dress, we start pushing or start blaming her/him for displaying terrible behavior. Aren’t we doing the same thing by not respecting their choices?
My husband is an avid biker. Apart from not being able to go for his bike rides, it is also heartbreaking for him to see the bike rotting in the basement. My life has turned upside down too. We both are deranged from time to time and pull our hair out (or even each other’s), but this does not give us the right to pass that on to our little one. Saying that a parent can’t have an emotional breakdown is unreal. But again, parenting is hard, like really hard, to the extent that the parents need to time their breakdowns do not occur simultaneously (No kidding here, I am serious). The sane parent at that particular time can manage his/her emotions and the situation at home.
Redress the Rupture
What if you discovered that all along you were the reason for your child being upset? I know, you will be guilty as hell. Sit back, relax, being a parent doesn’t make you any less human. You messed up, you said something you shouldn’t have, you got your emotions over you, and it is fine. Do what every human would do. Ask for forgiveness. Accept your mistake, revisit with your child what exactly happened and how you behaved, and why you behaved that way. Even if they pissed you off, don’t blame them for your inappropriate behavior. Tell them you did wrong and that this is awful and you would never want to repeat it. Acknowledge your reaction and demonstrate how to calm down. You are working towards the emotional development of a child by teaching how to deal with similar situations.
Raising Emotionally Resilient Children
Inculcating emotional skills and understanding will develop emotionally resilient children. Emotional development in early childhood helps these kids connect better with others and manage their actions. It will also strengthen the parent-child relationship as your child can explain his disappointments and frustrations better.
Have you faced a similar situation recently? Was it difficult managing your kid’s emotions? How did you deal with it?
Do share in the comments.