How to help children cope with frustration
How do you react when your child is upset or frustrated? Do you feel the same way?
Imagine the situation: the child is not able to solve the homework in mathematics. You explain to him how to solve the problem for 20 minutes, but he still says: “I can’t do anything.” Are you upset in this case?
New studies by American psychologists explain how the emotional state of parents affects the emotional state of a child.
A group of scientists from the University of California (USA) conducted an experiment in which school children and their parents took part. The essence of the experiment was that children faced a difficult task. The researchers found that parents who remain calm in such situations can help the child cope with their negative emotions.
To measure the emotional state of children, the method of electrocardiography was used. This made it possible to establish that children unknowingly sense the emotional state of their parents. As a result, the emotions of the parents are transmitted to the children.
During the experiment, each child, together with his parents, entered a room where he was asked to solve a difficult puzzle. Parents could observe the process, but not help the child. In the second part of the experiment, participants were given five additional minutes to solve the puzzle, but now parents could help the child.
The electrocardiogram data showed that the emotional state of the parents influenced the emotional state of the child. However, this relationship did not work in the opposite direction: the emotions of the child did not affect the emotions of the parents.
This study makes us take a fresh look at the features of the manifestation of emotions in children and parents. The relationship described above between the emotions of parents and children is also called emotional attunement or mutual regulation. At the second stage of the experiment, she helped the child overcome negative emotions and calm down.
From the very birth of a child, his ability to self-regulate is influenced by how parents react when he is upset. If the child is crying, and the parents tell him: “stop crying”, “do not pay attention” or “reconcile”, probably he will still experience negative emotions. If you shout at him or make him go to his room and calm down, this will not teach him to control his emotions. Rather, the child’s emotional reactions in stressful situations will be repeated and even intensified.
If the parents take the child in his arms when he cries, he calms down. Hugging parents and showing sympathy from the parents help the child in this. Older children can be taught to express their feelings through words. If parents ignore the emotions of the child or punish him when he is upset, his reaction to stressful situations will only intensify and become more frequent.
When a child is upset or crying, first of all, you need to stay calm. Take a few deep breaths – this should help. When you are calm, you can help your child: he unconsciously takes over your emotional state and calms down himself. He feels safe.
When a child gets older, you can teach him the methods you can calm down: breathing practices, positive thinking and verbal expression of your emotions.
Sometimes it seems to parents that the child prefers to cry, scream and stamp their feet, rather than explain what happened. Most likely, the child is still underdeveloped vocabulary to express their feelings in words. Such cases are an excellent occasion to teach a child appropriate ways to express emotions. When a child can tell what he feels and what caused such feelings, you can teach him to solve problems and calmly accept certain situations, even if the child does not like them. The more time you devote to developing these skills with him, the less often he will have outbreaks of negative emotions.
When the child learns to express his needs, he will be able to respond to the needs of others. If you are always ready to listen to the child, this does not mean that you will always give in to him or fulfill all his whims. But he will feel that you accept him and are always ready to listen. So you can easily teach him compassion, understanding of others and other useful skills.
Here are a few tips to help you control your own emotions:
1. If you are upset about something, take a few deep breaths or count to ten.
2. Pay attention to any signals by which the child communicates his emotions. It can be bodily signals, tone of voice or words.
3. In a calm tone, tell the child that you notice his feelings. For example, tell him: “I see that you are upset (angry, sad, etc.).”
4. Try to understand what upset your child. If you don’t know this for sure, ask: “What upset you?”