There’s no should or should not when it comes to having feelings. They’re part of who we are and their origins are beyond our control. When we can believe that, we may find it easier to make constructive choices about what to do with those feelings. - Mr Fred Rogers
If you're a parent, chances are pretty high that you’ve dealt with a meltdown or two… or two hundred. The cracker that broke in half and can't be fixed, the sock that doesn't fit, the container that won't open, the food is too hot, or too cold, or too colorful…. you name it, we've all been there. These problems may feel small to us, but in the eyes of your child, a situation like this can seem very big. Whether these moments feel overwhelming, frustrating, sad, or hilarious, all we want is for our little ones to feel better and go back to being their happy little selves as quickly as possible.
Situations (no matter how big or small) create feelings, and feelings result in a response. For example, the broken cracker scenario. First, the cracker breaks. Next, reality strikes that this can't be changed and the child has a flood of feelings, including frustration, anger, and sadness. Finally, the child responds by throwing the cracker and themselves onto the kitchen floor, screaming "It's ruined! I can't eat it! It won't go back together."
Situations = Broken Cracker Feeling = Frustrated Response = Tantrum
In moments of frustration our little ones hear nothing we say. Attempts at recovering tranquility never seem to work. During these moments, it is helpful to have a designated space where a child has the tools they need to help themselves calm down.
Introduce a Comfort Corner
From years of experience in the classroom and in our own homes, we know how helpful it can be to create a safe and comforting space for children. This space can be used in a variety of situations - a place to calm down from a tantrum or just a quiet place to unwind after a long day. Young children are still learning to regulate their emotions and how to respond to what can often become overwhelming feelings. Self-regulation is the ability to manage emotions and behaviors when presented with upsetting or just too much stimuli. More simply put, self-regulation is the ability to stop and think before reacting when faced with a problem. Until a child has developed the skills to self-regulate their emotions, creating a designated Comfort Corner with a variety of tools to help calm down when emotions get too big can be a huge support (for child and parent!).
Make a Routine
Teach your child a calming routine and show them the choices they have within the Comfort Corner for when their emotions feel too big. Role-play what to do if your child gets upset or just needs to settle into the evening. Practice walking to the Comfort Corner, taking deep breaths, and using the tools you have set up to support your child. The Comfort Corner should be a space used to calm down, not a place of punishment - this is not meant for ‘time-out’. This will help your child understand that negative emotions are normal and okay to have and that they have the ability to self-regulate these feelings. The goal being that when a negative situation occurs, and big feelings increase, your child will use this space to respond in a safe and appropriate manner. The beginning stages of self-regulation! The Comfort Corner is also a great space for a child when they are overly excited and struggling with having a calm body. You can teach a separate routine when this scenario takes place. Remind your child they can take themselves to the Comfort Corner anytime they feel they need to calm down.
Setting Up A Comfort Corner
Read our Parent Resource Guide: How To Create The Perfect Comfort Corner and check out a few of our favorite tools below to help get you started.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if my daughter never had to experience emotional distress and I could just take it away, poof, abracadabra? One of the hardest things by far about being a parent is seeing our children in pain and we could instantly ease it. Seeing them sad, hurt, or at the will of an overpowering feeling like anger or anxiety triggers great discomfort in most parents and causes us to spring into action and employ our favorite “fix it” response.
The truth is, we humans are feeling machines. It’s not realistic to protect our children from emotional pain, or take it away for them. In fact, our attempts to do so may be sending a message that whatever feeling they are experiencing in that moment needs to shift, doesn’t belong or is just plain “wrong”. Maybe we minimize, distract, dismiss, rescue, or punish with the hope that the emotional upset will be short-lived. We may celebrate and encourage positive emotions, while suppressing negative expression of emotions or viewing it as a problem to be solved.
For children just starting school (preschool or kindergarten) or for those heading into a new school environment, the countdown to the first day can cause overwhelming amounts of emotion. Trying to navigate through these unknowns can be tricky, especially for younger kids.
Here are a few ideas to help with a successful transition back-to-school for both you and your little ones...