Everyone has “big feelings.” As parents, we begin helping our children cope with their feelings from the time they are tiny. They learn that feelings don’t last forever and that parents can help them calm themselves. Remaining in control while coping with “big feelings” is a challenge for all kids, but especially for children from “hard places” whose needs were not met, whose parents did not comfort and soothe them, or who felt so unsafe that the “big feelings” never really calmed at all.
While it was important to work on coping strategies for those lightening bolts (triggers), we also recognized that sometimes those big feelings come anyhow and then we need a strategy to cope with them. In other words, we need to have a plan to move from dysregulation to regulation – without drama in the middle. Our kids need to know that they are in charge of their feelings and they can cope with them.
We created a plan with distinct steps. Here is the basic framework:
1. When I have big feelings I will say, “……” For example a key phrase might be, “I need to take a break.”
2. I will go to _______________________. (The child chooses a specific location in the house – ideally not the bedroom, which is a place for rest. It also can’t be a location which involves making other kids stop what they are doing and move e.g. the family room. )
3. In that place I will have ____________________. (The child selects specific things that will be kept there e.g. an ipod, drawing materials, blanket, etc. Whatever the child finds calming.)
4. Mom and Dad will check on me while I am there. (No talking necessary with the exception of saying, “I’m right here.”)
5. I will rejoin the family when I feel calm. (This is not a consequence, punishment, time-out, time-in, etc. When the child is calm, it is over.)
6. Later (maybe even a couple of hours later) I can talk with Mom and Dad about the lightening bolts that triggered the big feelings. We would not press for this, but we would make an effort to explore it if Dimples is willing.
Our goal is self-regulation and shrinking those lightening bolts. We worked on all of this with EMDR, so we hope it is well-organized in Dimples’ brain and she can access it when the plan is needed.
The work we did is causing me to reflect on how I cope with triggers – what is my plan for “big feelings?” Being grumpy with Russ and the kids is not acceptable, nor is eating large quantities of chocolate.
Today I am ordering The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind. I’ve had it on my Amazon list for awhile; I’m going to bump it to the top based on Cathy’s recommendation. Have you read it? What did you think?
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I hope your week is off to a great start.
This post may contain Amazon Affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.