How can I help my child manage his emotions?

You may be suspicious of emotions… because you fear that your child is too emotional, is too easily “overwhelmed” by them, and that it will play tricks on him. But you should also know that emotions help enrich their personality and shape their intelligence. So rather than pushing them away and keeping them at bay, teach them to live in harmony with them. That is to say, to identify them, to express them in a fair way – without excess but without self-censorship either – and above all to transform them. Age by age (for toddlers, older children and adolescents), the explanations and advice of psychologist Geneviève Djénati .

How does he express it?

In toddlers, anger often manifests itself in compulsive tears and angry cries, and facial redness. The whole body is involved: the child hits objects or people around him, sometimes hits or pinches himself, rolls on the floor.

In older children, language allows them to verbalize their anger. But rarely in a precise and adequate way: he uses “catch-all” words such as “I’m fed up” or “I’m drunk”. They may also verbally attack those around them in an aggressive manner.

Anger is often overwhelming in teenagers. As with the toddler, anger comes through the body and through violent gestures (punches in the wall, slamming doors). A procession of swearing can accompany this outburst.

What’s going on in his head?

Whatever the age, anger signals strong frustration: the child cannot get what he or she wants. They are overwhelmed by disappointment, unable to accept or overcome it. Frequently, anger is also partly directed at himself: he feels worthless for having failed to change the course of events in the desired direction. It can also be provoked by a strong sense of injustice, the impression of being subjected to excessive and inappropriate constraints.

What words, what gestures to accompany it?

Even if the child is particularly aggressive, it is important not to respond to anger with anger: the only consequence would be to make the situation degenerate! His anger is not a personal attack on those around him but a sign of suffering to be heard.

With a toddler, the role of the parent is above all to put words to this manifestation: you are telling me that things are not going well at all, that you are not happy because your tower of cubes has collapsed; I understand what you are telling me. At first, feeling understood calms the child. In the longer term, by identifying with his parent, he will learn to give meaning to this emotion that upsets him. If he really doesn’t manage to calm down, the parent can take him in his arms to contain him gently and sympathetically.

With an older child or teenager, words are also needed. Not just to say “I understand that you’re angry,” that wouldn’t be enough. But to send him back to his own representations: “what happens to you when I forbid you to go out? why does it put you in such a state? what consequences will it have in your life? ». It is a question of helping him to put his finger on what makes him suffer. Without doubt, it is also an opportunity to discuss the prohibitions, to reflect together on their validity and their eventual implementation.

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