One of the most challenging aspects of parenting is learning to deal with our children’s BIG emotions – and our own. Oftentimes, we label emotions as “bad” or negative – like anger or sadness. But we need to remember that BIG emotions are not BAD emotions.
Perhaps you were punished for expressing a BIG emotion as a child, so you learned to suppress those emotions now as an adult.
Perhaps you only saw people around you expressing BIG emotions in unhealthy, destructive, or even violent ways – like yelling, cursing, insulting, isolating, threatening, breaking things, punching things or even people. Perhaps you find yourself expressing your BIG emotions in those same ways now as an adult.
Many adults struggle to express BIG emotions because we were taught to suppress our own BIG emotions when we were children. As a result, we never had the opportunity to learn healthy ways to deal with those emotions.
If you were raised to express emotions in unhealthy ways or to suppress those emotions, you may also struggle with modeling healthy ways to release BIG emotions or with teaching your children to express or release their BIG emotions.
It’s not easy, but it is possible.
When I became a mother, I worked very hard to navigate my own BIG emotional waves. It took a lot of introspection and reflection. It was hard work, but important work.
I wanted to share 15 of the ways that I have learned to release my own BIG emotions and to teach my kids to do the same.
1. Take a DEEP breath.
This is one of the simplest yet most powerful strategies that we have for releasing BIG emotions. Take a slow deep breath in through your nose and out of your mouth. Imagine yourself blowing all of your anger and frustration away with each breath.
2. Draw your emotions.
When you or your child is experiencing a BIG emotion, pull out a piece of paper and a pen, pencil, crayons, or markers, and start drawing! Drawing a picture of your emotions helps to get your thoughts and feelings out of your head and onto a piece of paper. When you’re done, you can rip up the paper, crumble it into a ball, or turn it into a paper airplane and send it flying away.
3. Punch something.
A lot of times when someone feels angry, punching something can be a great way to release some of that tension and stress. However, instead of punching a wall or your sibling, offer something that is acceptable to punch like a pillow. If you really want to go all-out like we did, you can invest in this cool punching bag for your home!
4. Listen to music.
Music is a great motivator. Whether you are rocking out to some heavy metal, relaxing to some classical piano, or rejuvenating your spirit with an impromptu dance party, music helps us to release BIG emotions.
5. Take a time out.
Many people use time outs as a punitive measure, but a better way to use a “time out” is as an important strategy for self-care. If you are struggling with BIG emotions, give yourself a time out so that you can cool off and release whatever BIG emotion you may be feeling in the moment. By modeling a time out, we can teach our children the benefits of taking time to be alone when upset. Eventually, you can offer time out as a strategy to your child – not as a punishment.
6. Give a hug.
If you or your child are having a BIG emotion, a great way to release that emotion is to give (or receive) a hug. Physical touch is crucial for humans. A therapeutic hug usually lasts a minimum of six seconds, so hold tight, breathe deep, and release.
7. Read a book.
Reading a book is a beautiful way to build a bond with your children. We love to read the Joy Berry books which cover a wide variety of topics – including emotions. Another favorite is I Love You When You’re Angry. I also wrote a book called the Crunchy Kid Learns the Emotions which shows pictures and helps children to identify emotions.
8. Break the ice.
Fill a zip lock back with ice and give it a good whack! Imagine your anger shattering into small pieces as you break the ice. Also, if you place a piece of ice on the nape of your neck, that can also help to alleviate feelings of stress. This is a technique called Feng Fu Ice Cube Therapy.
9. Forgive and ask for forgiveness.
Sometimes we have legitimate reasons for being angry or sad. When that happens, it is important for us to practice forgiving those who have wronged us and asking for forgiveness from those whom we have wronged. One of the most powerful things that you can do as a parent is be humble enough to ask your child to forgive you when you mess up.
Writing is an incredible tool that we can use to help us process our emotions. By writing down our feelings, we are able to express ourselves in black and white. Sometimes just seeing our thoughts on paper (or on a screen) is enough to allow ourselves to release those emotions. If your child is unable to write, they can journal their feelings through pictures instead of words.
11. Work on Anger Management.
One of the best gifts that I could have ever given my daughter (or myself) was the Anger Management Workbook for Kids. This Workbook offers 50 strategies for dealing with anger. While I bought the book to help my 6-year-old process her anger in healthier ways, I found that the exercises made a profound difference for me too.
12. Offer Options.
Dealing with BIG emotions can often leave you feeling totally out of control. By offering choices, we bring a bit of that control back. You can offer to your child: “I noticed you are feeling angry. Would you like to punch a pillow or draw your anger?” Or you can say: “It’s okay to cry. May I give you a hug or would you prefer that I just sit with you until you feel better?”
Moving your body and exercising is a great way to help release BIG emotions. Go for a run or a walk with a friend. Dance to your favorite song. Lift weights at the gym. Jump in the pool and swim for a bit. Take your child to the park. When we exercise, it forces us to take deep breaths and to release some of the stress that we may be feeling.
14. Scream and Cry.
Sometimes, when you’re dealing with a BIG emotion, the best thing that you can do is to allow yourself to have a healthy tantrum. Scream as loud as you want to in your pillow. Go out into the forest and yell as loud as you need to. Cry until every last tear has fallen. Screaming and crying are healthy ways to release BIG emotions, but it’s okay to set some boundaries around that too. One day, my daughter was having some BIG emotions, so I told her that she can scream – just not inside the house or at me. I invited her to go outside on our deck and scream as loud as she wanted to. I even went outside to scream with her. We stood on the deck and screamed at the top of our longs until we both ended up laughing instead. Laughter is one of the sweetest ways to alleviate anger.
We cannot ask our children to do something that we ourselves are not willing to do. This is the most important way to help release BIG emotions. We must put in the work to model having a healthy relationship to our emotions and releasing emotions in healthy ways.
If you would like to learn more about releasing BIG emotions, check out Episode 7 of the Peaceful Worldschooling Podcast “Releasing BIG Emotions” with Charlotte Caunter.
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