Want to know how to navigate challenging moments? Here is how to de-escalate emotions in four steps to get from CHAOS to CALM with your child.
1 - Connect to Emotions
2 - Relate to them in their World
3 - Integrate Logic with Emotion
4 - Create New Choices
1) IT'S ALL ABOUT CONNECTING TO EMOTIONS
So WHY is connecting to emotions during a breakdown helpful? The science behind it is that when emotions are running high, the right side of the brain goes into overdrive and the logical left side of our brain basically shuts down. This causes emotions to have full control over the situation. When this happens relating to logic is futile and can instead intensify the emotions.
Before children can use logic and begin to understand what happened and how to choose differently next time, you need to connect their right brain to their left brain. But first negative emotions need to be de-escalated. Then and only then can you tap into their logical side. So how can you do this at home?
2) GET INTO THEIR WORLD
You will hear me say this a lot. RELATE to their emotions at their level. Get into that space with them. Avoid all judgment and just be in the moment. Empathize with facial expressions and allow them to move through their feelings.
(Note: if the behavior is destructive or they are hurting themselves or someone else this needs to be stopped first and different first steps apply)
3) INTEGRATE EMOTION WITH LOGIC
Once their emotions have calmed you need to ask yourself ... "Is this a teaching moment or response to a basic need (eg: tired, hungry, sick etc.) that's not being met?" If it's a response from a basic need vocally acknowledge they are (not feeling well, tired, hungry etc.) and let them know this is why they are feeling upset and the steps that will happen next to meet that need. (keep communication brief and simple. (Eg: I see you're upset that you are hungry. Let's wash our hands and get a snack) If it's a teaching moment then now is the time to start asking a couple of caring questions. Avoid telling them what to do or not to do at this point. Caring questions are a wonderful way to engage their logical side of their brain and gets them thinking about why they are feeling this way. THIS IS KEY! It integrates the right and left side of the brain.
4) CREATE NEW CHOICES
At this point it's important to keep them thinking. Once they open up you can then plan for the future by asking what they can do differently next time. "What could you do differently to avoid feeling upset?" (Note: Age makes a big difference here on what questions to ask and responses given so be flexible and patient.) If they struggle with answers that's ok and you can make some suggestions and ask what they like best. This part is all about giving them CONTROL of their own CHOICES, FEELINGS & BEHAVIORS.
(TIP - for non-verbal or younger children images are really helpful to look at and pick alternative choices)
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