So, your 15 month old has started having daily meltdowns – how do you respond? So many people tell us to ignore them. That doesn’t feel right… but what is the alternative?
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We all know, connection parenting is 90% prevention… but what do we do when (despite or actually because of the safety of all that emotional closeness we have created) they begin to show some BIG feelings?…
Here’s the thing, when this happens our children are telling (or showing) us how they feel and, like with anybody, the most important thing for them is to feel heard and seen.
1. For me, the first thing is always to empathise: try and put myself in their shoes. What emotion is coming up for them (anger, frustration, sadness, jealousy…)? What triggered this? How would I feel in that situation? etc.
2. Then, I move in close, try and catch their eye and give them words/a story for what is happening, like ‘oh you couldn’t reach that *** and now you are really frustrated’.
What we are doing here is:
a) validating and acknowledging the frustration (and 15 months is a frustrating age, so much you just realised you want to do but you don’t quite have the motor skills or words to make it happen!!);
b) reassuring them we love them THROUGH their strong feelings (not suspending our love/affection when big stuff comes up for them);
c) by staying calm yourself we are helping them re-find their centre and begin to build the neural pathways for self-comfort in the future;
d) giving them the first tools in their future emotional intelligence kit – knowing how to recognise and name their own feelings (honestly, I know adults who are not in touch with their feelings well enough to say ‘I feel angry/sad’ right now). This is huge. In a sense we are helping them build their own future inner dialogue when big feelings come up. As they grow older we can continue to model and actively demonstrate ways to channel those feelings in a peaceful way – but the foundation is this: recognising and naming our feelings.
3. After that, I’d just stay with them until they are done ‘telling’ or showing me how they feel and then when they are ready offer a hug.
Meanwhile, you want to keep it light and match their energy to theirs (not over-dramatise, if they are ready to move on, move on with them :) – the most important thing is demonstrating that you love them, no matter what and all the time, and that their big feelings are safe with you (will not push you away). Isn’t that a lesson for life?