Nurturing Emotional Intelligence in Sensory Sensitive Children when Emotions Run High
If you’ve spent any time around children, or even your local grocery store, you’re well aware that kids throw temper tantrums. You’ve probably even seen your fair share of adult temper tantrums. And if you have a child that has Sensory Processing Disorder or other conditions that disrupt behavior, tantrums and meltdowns can be a part of everyday life. And even though most people understand that those kinds of things happen, it doesn’t stop the burn of humiliation or the desperate urge to get them to stop. So we obviously want to know how to get them to stop or more importantly how to prevent them from happening all together. Mid tantrum the best we can really do is remain calm, try to avoid reinforcing the behavior and try to talk them down from the ledge. But to avoid the meltdowns we can offer a preemptive strike by teaching emotional intelligence (EQ).
Teaching Emotional Intelligence
We spend countless hours teaching our children the ABC’s and 123’s. Then we move on to phonics and addition, subtraction, sentences, paragraphs and history facts. These are important fundamentals for intelligence as schools define it and how most people define intelligence. But what about emotional intelligence? How much time do we spend teaching our children to identify their emotions and what triggers those emotions? How much time do we spend teaching them empathy or self-regulation? Possibly more than you think, but, more than likely, not long enough, especially when you consider how long we spend teaching other forms of intelligence. Emotional intelligence is a vital part of success. High levels of EQ help people to keep situations under control, increases productive problem solving, and decreases bullying. So here are some helpful tips to boost your child’s emotional IQ and decrease tantrums and meltdowns.
Name that emotion
Putting names to feelings helps teach your child to communicate what they’re feeling so they don’t wait until it all comes exploding out of them. As parents, we tend to pick up on what our children are feeling before they do. Call it a combination of outsiders perspective and a heaping of intuition. When you see the signs of a powerful emotion stirring, put words to what they’re feeling. “Don’t you feel so light and happy after scoring that goal or making that basket?” “Isn’t it frustrating when things don’t turn out how we planned?” All of our emotions come with tangible physical responses. Tie those responses to a sturdy vocabulary so they can first identify, then express what they’re feeling.
Be an example
As much as we all hope that our children will do as we say and not as we do, we all know that’s not how it works 99.99% of the time. If we want our children to be emotionally wise, we need to be emotionally wise ourselves. Give your child a commentary of how you feel in certain situations and why you chose to handle that situation that way. If you’re not there yet, then learn it side-by-side with them. I’ve seen my daughter back down from a meltdown using my own words and mimicking my tone of voice to a T. Something she learned from watching me take a step back and apologize when I lost my temper. Luckily for us, this method doesn’t require us to be perfect examples.
Be a good listener
Listen closely when your child is frustrated. Given enough time and patient prodding, they will give you a glimmer of what’s fueling their meltdown. If you’re listening and acknowledging how they feel, when they toss you that bone, you’ll be ready to help them identify and understand what’s going on inside their minds. My daughter finally blurted out the whopper, “it makes me feel like the worst personal in the world,” when she was having a meltdown about getting in trouble. As soon as it came out, I was right there to talk her through why she was feeling the way she felt and how she could handle the situation differently next time so she didn’t have to feel that way again.
This is a little harder. Many times when people are behaving poorly, they aren’t aware how they come across to those around them. Someone recommended recording their behavior so they could see it from an outside perspective. My daughter was not a fan of this method. Lately, I have taken to small bursts of mimicking. She went for her favorite move of screaming mean words and jumping up and down with her fists clenched. So I threw her through a loop and repeated her actions and words verbatim. Her eyes widened and once I had her attention, I wrapped her in my arms and calmly explained that I wasn’t mad and that I did it so she could see how her actions looked, sounded and felt from an outsider’s perspective. This was met with a profuse apology and a tight hug. This method needs to be tailored more to your child and what ways of showing them their behavior are best going to speak to them.
Own that emotion
I can’t think of a single person who isn’t guilty of expressing some form of the phrase “that makes me so mad.” It’s hard to even think of expressing frustration without the word ‘makes’. But that sly little word takes responsibility for our emotions and makes them someone else’s fault. A situation may be frustrating, but responding to that situation with anger is a choice. If we can learn that all of our emotions, good and bad, are in our court, then we have the power to alter those feelings and responses at anytime during that situation.
As you may have guessed, I’ve dealt with a fair few tantrums and meltdowns. I haven’t handled every situation with as much grace as I’d like to claim, but focusing on boosting my own emotional intelligence as well as my daughter’s has already made a huge impact. I hope it can help you out too.
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