They got an A- instead of an A+. A video game isn’t working right. They had to serve detention because they got in trouble at school. A toy was left out in the rain and now it’s ruined. It’s pajama day at school and they forgot. You were 10 minutes late to school pick up because of an accident on the freeway. And the list goes on and on and on…
First Rule - DO NOT TRY TO CONVINCE YOUR CHILD WHY THEY SHOULDN’T BE UPSET.
When you are upset, as a grown up, if somebody tries to convince you that you shouldn’t be, does it work?? NO. It’s like telling you why you are wrong, it’s completely invalidating. Yuck!
Second Rule - JOIN
In other words, sympathize. You don’t have to agree, simply connect with the emotional state your child is in at that moment in time. If they are crying, they will not ever just jump out of it and say “Wow, Mom! Thanks! You are so right. Getting upset about not reaching my goal of getting all A’s was stupid. I am so glad you straightened that out.”
Third Rule - LET THEM CALM DOWN IN THEIR OWN TIME
“Get over it” is about the worst thing to say to anybody in a sensitive or upsetting situation. “Get over it” is your inability to deal with the discomfort you feel. Nobody and I mean nobody “gets over it”, they get THROUGH it. There is a huge difference there. “Over it” means I ignore it and drag it behind me until it bubbles up to the surface again. “Through it” means I dealt with all the icky feelings and can cut the cord that binds me. Some people are over it in 20 minutes, some take hours. Much of that is skill based, and your child is probably not too skilled at relinquishing anger. So give them time and space.
Fourth Rule - HAVE WAYS TO EXPRESS ANGER
This does not mean they get to be disrespectful or destructive to you or anybody else. Wanna scream into a pillow and punch it? Fine. Wanna destroy something previously deemed destroyable? Great! (keep phone books and egg cartons around that you don’t mind if they take a beating) Wanna slam the door to your bedroom and punch a hole in the wall? Definitely NOT OK. Set up boundaries around what is OK and what is not and consequences for when the rules are broken.
It is so important for you child to know you are a safe place for them to express their emotions. “Hey honey, I am not sure I totally understand why you are so upset, but I sure know how awful it feels to be sad / angry / hurt / frustrated.” Be your child’s safe place.