It’s no secret that emotions can be overwhelming to little ones. They don’t have the same vocabulary we do, and they haven’t developed the cognitive skills to process their feelings yet.
So, what do you do when your toddler starts to cry? Here are a few strategies that work well for me.
1. Give them a hug and tell them it’s okay to feel that way.
One of my go-to methods is giving my kids a big hug and telling them that it’s okay to feel sad or angry or whatever emotion they’re feeling at the moment.
I know this might sound like a no-brainer. But you would surprise how often people forget this step!
I try to make sure I give them an extra big hug when they need it most. Especially, right after they get hurt or when something upsets them.
I also try to remember not to make them feel guilty for crying, because they have no control over it!
2. Let them see you cry so they know it’s okay for them too.
Another great strategy is letting your kids see you cry when you need to, especially if you don’t normally cry in front of your kids.
They learn from watching us how our bodies respond when we feel certain emotions, so let them see what crying looks like (but not overdoing it so much that it scares them).
If possible, give your kid a reason why you are crying — “I had a bad day at work today, and I just need some time alone in my room right now so I can calm down before dinner time!
You go play with your toys while I take care of myself! Okay?” This helps explain why mommy is upset and gives her some time alone without having her kids feel abandoned by her tears (although sometimes we really do need some alone time).
It also shows our children that emotions are normal — even mommy gets sad sometimes! We all get sad sometimes!
3. Teach them to express their feelings in words, not actions.
If we teach our kids that throwing a fit is okay. They will keep doing it because they see that we let them get away with it. So instead of saying “Stop crying!
You’re not going to get your way by doing that!” try saying “I know you are sad right now. But we have plans for dinner and I need you to stop crying so we can go eat soon! Okay? Let me know when you are ready and I will give you a hug!”
This teaches our children how they should respond when they feel angry or sad or upset — by telling us what they are feeling so we can help fix the problem (and hopefully without throwing a fit!).
Of course, these strategies won’t work for every situation. Sometimes your toddler just needs time alone or time with his dad while mommy goes out on her own for an hour or two!
But I think teaching our kids how to express their feelings and helping them process those emotions is one of the most important things we can do as parents.
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