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Supporting Children with Tantrums

With our society having an ever growing focus on infant mental health Lucy, Founder of NEST, discusses some strategies which may help you as a parent or carer if you are finding yourself struggling with your little one’s tantrums.

Firstly it is ok and ‘normal’ for your child to have tantrums! Children can struggle to regulate their emotions which lead can them to becoming upset and frustrated. It is important to remind yourself and reassure your little one that ‘all emotions are ok’, it is how we chose to display them that can cause the problem.

In the moment when your little one is having a tantrum, it can be stressful and sometimes rather embarrassing (especially if in the middle of the supermarket like the Haribo tv advert!). It is important to remember to keep calm, if you are feeling stressed and anxious too- your child will absolutely pick up on this.

If you at home or somewhere where you can allow them to have space, then let them express their emotions and give them some space to roll around and shout on the floor. If you want to sit near them so they know you are close, then this is ok, but equally if you wanted to pop into the next room, then this is ok too. You may also need a few moments to gather yourself..its ok to find these times stressful!

When your child has calmed down, they are likely to come towards you looking for reassurance and need a cuddle. Take this time to cuddle them, reassure them and tell them you love them. Big emotions can feel overwhelming for a little person!

Ensure you make eye contact with your child, get down to their level and explain to them what just happened whilst labelling their emotion. “I know that Daddy saying “no” to having a biscuit right now has made you cross and that’s ok. I know you are feeling hungry, but I am cooking your tea and it will be ready in 5 minutes. Do you want to finish off playing for the last 5 minutes or help Daddy in the kitchen?”

In this example, you can see not only have you labelled the emotions and reassured the child, but you have then moved on positively by offering a distraction and a choice so the child then feels in control.

Labelling emotions takes time and practice- the more children are exposed to it, the easier it will become for them. Role modelling labelling your emotions is a brilliant place to start, reading stories which talk about emotions are brilliant for younger children, and as children get older, there are some lovely resources such as emotion stones which can be used to further develop this skill.

In time, tantrums will ease, but talking about emotions and reassuring your little one will help them through this tricky time!

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