I have an emotionally sensitive child

I have an emotionally sensitive child. And it is sometimes hard not to wear his emotions too!

Rather than ‘brush off’ his feelings with comments like ‘it’s okay’, ‘don’t worry about it’, ‘just let it go’, it works much better to identify with his strong feelings. I might say ‘you are really disappointed aren’t you?’, ‘that must’ve worried you a lot’ or ‘I know you wanted a turn first’.

Instead of firing him up more, he relaxes because he feels understood and supported.

This is one of the first steps in helping him to calm down and regulate his emotions. Without an understanding adult on his side, he is pretty much sure to ‘flip his lid’, where he can’t think straight, won’t let anyone in to help him and struggles to calm down for what seems like an eternity.

And of course, a hug to go with it brings even more success!

Who else can identify with one of these little sensitive ones?

10 tips to more peaceful sharing

Come 18 months, your child may be up for the dreaded tantrums and the beginning of ‘mine’.  You see for the first couple of years, a child believes they are an extension of their mother, until through brain development, the little one works out they are actually their own person…..  Bring on Master Independence, Miss No and little Master MINE!  These once innocent children suddenly have their own thoughts, feelings, opinions and honestly believe that everything IS theirs.  It might be hard to believe sometimes, but your child is not trying to cause fights because they want to.  They are not naughty.

So how do you help your child to share and take turns, especially when other children are in the equation?  The first thing to have a think about is the difference between sharing and turn-taking.  There is a difference!  So sharing means that your child may give part of something in their possession whilst they share it with the other child (think ‘here you can have one of my grapes’, ‘you can draw with my pencils with me’).  This can be easier than turn-taking which involves handing treasured items over and spending agonising time waiting for who-knows-how-long.  For this post, I will talk about sharing meaning both sharing and turn-taking.

There may not be a correct answer, but one question I do ask is ‘how much should a parent step in and coordinate sharing?‘ versus stepping back and letting children learn through experience (obviously not to the point of physical aggression).  

Here are 10 points to think about when dealing with children struggling to share.

1. It depends on age.  The way you help your two-year-old to share will be very different to your four-year-old.  You may step in less with the older children and leave them to sort things out of their own accord.  For the younger ones, you will use far less language to help negotiate sharing (think 2 word phrases until you are sure they understand, through repetition, how sharing works).

2. Have a rule on ‘special toys’ that you will always stand up for.  Your child needs to know and understand which toys are their own ‘special toys’ that other children are not allowed free access to (think special present, comforter, favourite book).  The less the better, to avoid extra work for you and your child ‘protecting’ them all.  These are the ones you might pack away when other children come to visit or you will always give back to it’s owner if the sibling manages to get hold!

3. Teach the concept ‘wait’.  Waiting is a very hard concept for a young child to grasp as it happens in many different scenarios (think waiting in line at the post office, waiting for dinner, waiting for a turn on the swing) and it is nearly always for a different length in time.  Sometimes it’s not even clear to the child when waiting has finished (unless you signal ‘finished waiting’).  Learning and defining the sign ‘wait’ (click on hyperlink to see) can be ideal as you will most likely be signing this for a while to come in many scenarios, especially in turn-taking and even when you can’t talk (think mouth full, on the phone).  Signing can also help to distract your child.

4.  Have a rule about ‘no touching’ (snatching) when another child has their hands on a toy and ‘use your words’ instead.  You can reinforce this even for the youngest ones by helping your child to take their hands off the toy being used and model ‘mine?’ (placing their hand on their chest can be a good natural gesture (my/mine) to reinforce the concept).  This is when you sign ‘wait’.  Part 2 of this post will go into more about what to do when the other child says ‘no!’.

5. Ensure a consistent waiting time for each child.  If there are any little ones involved, you might have to stick with ‘two minutes’ for everyone’s turns.  Preschool kids can definitely learn to wait longer such as ‘five minutes’ or ‘until Jack has ridden around the path’ or ‘when Sarah has finished her painting’.

6. Be consistent with the language you use.  Children will share better when they understand how the ‘rules’ work.  Using repetitive language (such as ‘Johnny’s turn, Sarah’s turn next…wait….then Sarah’s turn’) helps to make each sharing scenario more predictable and hence help to keep your child calmer. 

Think about this: The child that can stop and listen to your words about how the sharing scenario will work, and understand that they will have another turn after a short period (say 2 minutes), will be more likely to succeed at sharing than the one that doesn’t understand what is happening and allows their brain to ‘flip it’s lid’ (meaning they get so worked up they then cannot think straight to calm down and understand the situation).  Because of this, it is so important to pick the best words for your child to understand and say them the same way each time.

7. Choose your battles.  Sometimes it is easier just to have two of the same item, when you know it will matter!

8. The more you put in, the more you get back.  It can be hard work negotiating but as I’ve said above, the more consistent you are in setting up the rules, the quicker your children will come around and hopefully transfer this to sharing with others outside the home.  Sometimes you will be just putting in energy not stepping in and seeing how the children learn themselves.

9. Keep in mind personality.  Some children are more easy-going and yes this transfers onto sharing.  They will probably be able to let go of their turn much more easily than the persistent child that digs their heels in and resists transitions (especially without warning!).  Not that you want to treat each child differently, but you will want to give more understanding for these persistent ones ;).

10. Mind the ‘martyrdom’.  This can be a tricky one for some parents.  Does your child really need you to step in and help?

Stay tuned for Part 2 – The ‘sharing’ cartoon strip!

Thanks for visiting I raise my kids! You can also find us on Facebook for more tips as well as posts or on Google+ 🙂 Heidi

Do you want a hug?

[18 mths +] My best tactic for dissolving a tantrum/meltdown or in better terms ‘difficulty regulating one’s emotions’……..
‘Do you want a HUG!??!!??!??!’. Every single time my boys always say ‘YES’ (in an ‘I thought you’d never ask’ tone) and it calms them down enough for us to talk about the situation they were in. Much sooner than if I had not offered the hug!

The thing is, when your child is overwhelmed with emotion, their brain will find it virtually impossible to think straight or take in what you are saying to them. In fact, any type of talking or attempting to negotiate them in this state can actually add fuel to the fire.

The book ‘The Whole Brain Child’ by Daniel Spiegel and Tina Payne Bryson is a must-read if you are entering into tantrum zone with your child (or still struggling with them) and particularly if you are interested in how a child’s brain develops and works. It is a very easy read with plenty of drawings to keep you interested! You’ll find yourself taking sides with your child instead of fighting them..

ps – there are those occasions when your child might be SO worked up, they say ‘no’ to everything offered.  This is when I found it was time for any distraction, planted just near them for them to accept themself.  For us, it was the iPhone….!

Saying it with a pen – coping with disappointment

Coping with disappointment is related to ‘difficulty adapting to change’, when a change happens that the child wasn’t expecting!  Spirited children find it even harder to cope with change and disappointment as they go into almost a flight/fight/freeze reaction where they cannot think logically or clearly.

Master 3 had been watching Playschool, one of his favourite dinosaur episodes and always loved to dance to the dinosaur songs with his dino tail on.  Unfortunately, if the tail isn’t on as the song begins, a meltdown occurs.  It is easy to say ‘calm down’, ‘you’ve missed TWO seconds of the song, don’t worry’, but Master 3 has ‘flipped his lid‘ (as The Whole Brain Child calls it) and he cannot think clearly or logically from then on.  No matter what we do!

So!  One day, having had enough of it, I announced we were doing a drawing to set Master 3 up for success the next time.  This time was lost, but at least I could prepare his brain better for next time, before he had another ‘dino meltdown’!

If you haven’t already, you can also refer to When in doubt, say it with a pen! for a run-down on the benefits of drawing with your child 🙂  This is how this drawing went…

First

the meltdown

the meltdown

Square 1. Master 3 watching Playschool

2.  I asked how Master 3 felt in this scenario – he responded ‘sad’ so I prompted ‘but what made you sad’ to get him talking more – ‘no tail’.

3. I drew Mummy running to get the tail but Master 3 still crying.

4. I asked Master 3 how he felt after Mummy went to get his tail – he responded ‘sad, I didn’t like missing out on the song (without the tail on)’

5. So I drew Mummy trying to give him the tail so we could go back to that part to talk about it more, as Master 3 just couldn’t calm down even though he had the tail and the song was still going.  He responded ‘too sad to dance to some of the song’.  His words.

6. We finished the drawing with how the scenario ended, Master 3 still upset.

Second

take 2 - the fairytale version

take 2 – the fairytale version

Square 1.  I started the drawing with ‘Master 3 is happy his dino song is on!!’ and drew a happy face to start the drawing.  This had Master 3 laughing just thinking about it, almost relieved he didn’t have to get upset.  I asked him what he needed to say – he came up with ‘mummy get my tail please!’. Nice.

2. I wrote what Master 3 might say ‘put it on quick, I’ll dance to some of it, with my tail’.

3.  Master 3 again, so happy to see himself happy and dancing at the end of this story.  We compared with the ending of story 1.

Third

the what if version

the what if version

The most important part – thinking about what variations of the fairy tale version might happen, so we don’t get another surprise next time!  Mental practice for the not-so-planned times is SO helpful for children who don’t cope with change and disappointment well.  Knowing that Master 3 was primed for me to put his tail straight on, we talked about what happened if the tail wasn’t right there in the room.

Square 1. ‘Mummy get my tail please’

2. Mummy running for the tail – the key point here – Master 3 still SMILING!

3.  I asked Master 3 what he would do in the meantime – ‘I might dance until my tail comes’.  He’s getting it!

4.  Mummy putting the tail on – Master 3 still happy (‘not like that first story!!’)

5.  Hooray, Master 3 is STILL happy.

 The other day, we had success!  Master 3 stayed calm and said to Master 1 ‘You just dance and mummy will get a tail for you’.

problem solved!!!!

problem solved!!!!

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