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This is a question that many parents ask. When children are upset adults often believe they can process and express how they feel. This is not always true; however, here are few tools that can begin to change the dynamic of how your child communicates when emotions are running high. Effective communication can be taught through modeling, support, and positive reinforcement.
The first thing you want to do is separate your emotions from what your child is currently experiencing. What is happening is not about you. Even if you are the source of conflict or their anger, take yourself out of the equation. Any emotions that you may feel in relation to the situation please put them aside. Your support is needed, and you want to assist your child with understanding their feelings. Interjecting how you feel or what you want takes the focus off of your child and decreases the chances of them learning how to communicate effectively.
“Silence is GOLDEN”! There are moments that this phrase is perfect…this is one of them. When your child is visibly upset, angry, hurt, or annoyed. The first thing to do as a parent is to get quiet. You don’t have to feel the pressure of having all the answers. Sit with your child in the silence and breathe. If they are standing or pacing, stand with them in silence. Let you posture match theirs for unspoken support. If your child does not mind physical touch, you can put your hand on their shoulder, arm, or their hand. This signifies to your child that you are there in the moment with them. It also teaches your child to take a moment to get quiet, to stop and think about how they are feeling.
Thirdly, utilize your expertise as their parent to break the silence. What would bring them comfort, if it was you what would comfort you (I say this because our children are more like us than we like to admit)? Give what you would want to receive. Treat others how you want to be treated. You can say, “do you want to talk about it”, “is there something I can do”, your tone should remain calm and your words few. No matter what they say you as the parent should remain calm not out of fear that they will explode, but out of maturity being a voice of reason to bring them out of this moment to a place where they can talk and begin to calm down.
Next, if they don’t want to talk about it, assure them that you are there for them. When they are ready make time or check back in with them later for a chat. Don’t push them into communicating but continue to reassure them that you are there for them. If your child chooses to talk, allow them to speak and you only listen. Use this as an opportunity to defer to them, asking what they think and how should they handle the situation. You want to utilize this time to build trust and a level of comfort with your child. Creating a non-judgmental environment. In addition to allowing them to learn in real-time how to communicate effectively.
Lastly, when and if you see this behavior in the future, remind them of their strengths and ability to handle the previous situation. Remember you don’t have to feel the pressure of solving their problems for them. They just want to know someone cares, is willing to listen, and won’t judge them.