Toddlers tend to go big with most things; it’s a humorous irony to their diminutive size…except not always that funny when it’s monumental meltdowns. Here’s how to help your tot (and you!) navigate his larger-than-life feelings.
Child psychologist Dr Margot Sunderland emphasises that “big feelings” for little people are entirely normal: “The parts of the brain that helps us to think and understand how we feel aren’t developed in children. So, while we adults can moderate our feelings by thinking them through, your toddler can’t. He just reacts!”
Margot also makes it clear that while some emotions may be easier to deal with than others, they’re all important, and we shouldn’t try to suppress them, only assist our children in their expression—
“Instead, be with him and support him as he starts to understand how and why he feels that way, and learns how to handle those feelings,’ says Margot. You won’t just infuse your household with more calm if you actively work on this kind of feeling management, you’ll also equip your child with a vital social skill: empathy. What’s more, he’ll make more measured decisions when it comes to his one-far adult relationships.
So what’s the trick?
Name the feeling. If you articulate what’s happening inside your little one’s head, you will show understanding, and he’ll, in turn, feel understood. “And when we feel understood we become calmer,” explains Margot. By naming the emotion, you also remove the fear surrounding it, making it more familiar, and showing your child that you get it—you’ve been there, too. And providing him with a vocabulary for expression will mean he’s less likely to turn to unhealthy ways of acting out his feelings.