Monday, March 3, 2014

Helping Bug Communicate Emotions

Bug (3y) has been having a lot of difficulties in communicating his feelings lately, sometimes called meltdowns. My usual mode of helping him through these times is to sit across from him, my arms open in case he wants a hug, and say things like "I see you're upset," "I am listening," "I want to help you," "I can help you more easily if you talk to me," with looooong pauses in between. I basically just hold a calm space for him, and after a few minutes of screaming, crying, and foot stomping while he works through whatever he's got going on he'll finally take a deep breath and say something like "I want a straw in my water."

Papa has been home more often the last few weeks so he's witnessed more of these meltdowns than he usually does. He asked me last night if I thought Bug's behavior was normal. Not going to lie, I laughed out loud. Yes, very normal. I'd even say he has less frequent and less intense meltdowns than I'd consider normal.

We talked more about it. Normal or not, he's struggling with a situation and its our responsibility to help him through it and help him learn to deal with his emotions in a healthy way. From that perspective I think we're handling things well. We are showing him we accept his feelings. We are actively listening to him. We are staying present so he learns he does not need to try to hide or suppress his feelings, or be ashamed of them. We're teaching him that we are a safe place to come when he's feeling overwhelmed, that he doesn't have to deal with these things alone.

Other approaches wouldn't teach these things. Punishing him for his outward behavior would neglect to address the underlying feelings, and create more hurt on top of them.

I'm confident Bug will move past this stage in his own time, and our relationships with him will be stronger from it.

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