When you’re a parent, it’s crucial to care for your child’s mental health. That means being mindful when they have big feelings. Sometimes you may not understand their emotions. Young children tantrum when they have strong feelings, and that’s a natural part of child development. Maybe they’re upset because a need isn’t being met. It helps to take the time to understand what the problem is instead of reacting. You may have the impulse to yell or even cry out of frustration. Remember, it’s not your fault that your child is having a strong emotional reaction. Even if they’re responding to something you said or did, they’re entitled to their feelings. You’re also allowed to have emotional responses.
Some ways to respect your child’s mental health:
Children can be overwhelmed by their emotions, so much so that they have trouble regulating them. When your child is overcome with feelings, it could disarm you. Their crying, yelling, or reactions could make you anxious or even feel scary. Their feelings may trigger emotions in you. Pause before reacting. Understand that your child is experiencing an overwhelming emotional experience, and (even if they’re not asking), they’re looking for you to guide them. Be present, pause, and assess the situation before you act.
2. Be emotionally curious
If your child is angry and says something that hurts your feelings, before responding, take a moment, and breathe. You can ask them, “What made you say that?” Give your child the chance to respond. You can also ask, “what are you feeling right now?” It’s helpful to talk about their feelings and acknowledge them. Once they express themselves, you can tell them how you feel. Try to use “I messages.” For example, “I feel hurt when you call me a mean mommy.” Your feelings are valid, just as your child’s feelings matter. When you’re aware of your emotions, it can impact how emotionally available you are to your child’s needs.
Empathy is a crucial skill for children to learn. You can start teaching them how to empathize by modeling the behavior. When your child is sad, you can say, “I’m sorry you’re feeling sad. Do you want to talk about it?” Some children want to talk about their feelings, and others need space. Sometimes, what they need is for you to just be there. All kids are different. Trust that your child will tell you what they need. Also, it’s okay to hold them. Sometimes all you want when you’re feeling sad, no matter how old you are, is to have a hug. That shows that you care. Remember, your child is observing your behavior, and they’re learning from you. Showing them that you care about their feelings will help them a model that behavior with you. Before you know it, they’ll be comforting you when you’re having a rough day.
4. Talk about parenting in online therapy
Online therapy is an excellent place to vent about your problems. Being a parent is challenging. You want to do the best for your children, but you also have to manage your feelings. Consider connecting with an online therapist. If you’re curious to learn more about your mental health, therapy is a great place to find emotional insight. As a parent, you have unique stressors, and it’s okay to ask for help if you need it. You’ve probably heard the expression, “it takes a village to raise a child.” Part of that village could be a mental health professional. Online therapy can help you be a better parent and find ways to engage in self-care. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help.
Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health-related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with Mind-Diagnostics.org. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.