Helping children manage their moods
…and avoid the meltdown!
Moods can strike just when you don’t want to expect them! You are at an event with family or friends and someone gets up to give a speech when your little person let’s out the loudest scream you’ve ever heard! Or you are at a church service and everyone bows their heads in silence when your little person heralds, “This is stupid!”
All of these examples and more can leave you feeling helpless and out of control of the moment. What causes these mood swings in young children and how can you get control of the situation? This was my question as I was raising 4 young children all about 2 years apart. The meltdowns often seemed unpredictable, irrational and most of all exhausting to manage.
So I talked to counselors, I did my homework on the internet, I talked to teachers who manage moods and behavior day after day and found some starting points that worked in my household.
Here is what I learned and put into practice in my home and in my classroom at school.
First of all, we need to make sure that our children’s basic needs are met. Adults as well as children need to make sure that their psychological needs are met, their safety needs are met and their needs for love and belonging are met. The idea behind this research was that in order progress from one level to the next we need to feel fulfilled or satisfied at the level below. We all start at those most basic needs and then to become the best that we can be we move up the pyramid until we can achieve our full potential.
So what does this have to do with moods? Well, take a typical day: waking up early, rushing through breakfast, grabbing all the gear for the day and heading to the car…Dropping kids off at school (maybe you only had a cup of coffee), making it to work 10 minutes late. Meanwhile your preschool kiddo didn’t have time to snuggle with you before you dropped him off, his older sibling hid his favorite stuff that helps him to feel safe at school and his tummy is full of a sugary pop tart! Before you know it, he is on the floor having a major hissy fit! Sound familiar.
Our days are jam packed but we have become so used to it that we think it is the norm.
How can we slow down and meet our own needs in addition to the needs of our children?
One easy thing to do is the next time you are at the store stock up on healthy go to’s for on the go food. High protein snacks can help ward off sugar crashes and fruit and veggies are great to keep the “h-angry’s” from surfacing.
Tried getting everyone to bed just a bit earlier. It might mean cutting out the last errand of the day or trying to get a calm down routine developed for bedtime that helps everyone go to sleep a little bit fast.
Remember screen time right before bed can often keep the brain ramped up for over an hour after you turn the screen off. Try something like reading together as a family or doing a few calming yoga poses like moon salutations or legs up the wall.
Start a gratitude jar that you can keep in a handy place so that if someone is especially grumpy they can grab a gratitude to read and shift their metal perception.
Take a few extra minutes in the morning to wake up a little more slowly so that everyone has just a few minutes to spend together. Sometimes it the little things that count. Sitting for just 3 breaths before heading out the door. Setting an intention for the day-“I am happy”, “I feel peaceful”, I am thankful for a beautiful day.” Remind everyone that when things get tuff that they can take just three breaths and remember this intention.
You can also make a list of thing that help in times of trouble. What makes you happy? Maybe your favorite coloring sheet (mandalas are a great go to), a good book, your favorite song, playing with a toy like legos or a building set, or clay to express creativity.
Set up a yoga corner in your house or classroom with feathers for breathing, a breathing ball, a deck of yoga cards, a small weighted blanket and some breathing buddies.
Raising Happiness: 10 Simple Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents by Kathleen F Miller