Growing up is hard! It really is, and being an adult isn’t exactly a stroll down easy street either. Put the two together, frustrated child, frustrated parent, and you have some real challenges. Getting through a historically rough period for the world is hard, it must be truly hard to understand for kids, and we want to look for ways we can help them deal with the frustration that they can be feeling in these frustrating times. (I don’t know about you, but I for one could use some positive ways to get through my own frustrations these days). What are some positive ways to show kids how they can break through their frustration? How can we help guide them to find ways to deal with frustrations that can help them for the rest of their lives? How can we as parents benefit from some of these techniques?
Helpful Tips For Parents
Everyone struggles, but it’s equally hard when you as a parent watch your children struggle. Life is hard sometimes and we want our kids to be able to work through the difficulties and find positive ways to deal with negative emotions. Here are some really great suggestions to help your kids (and you) when they are dealing with frustration:
- Understand your child and what their normal reaction is to adversity
- Sometimes they won’t voice that they are frustrated, but in turn sit and pout, stare out the window, pick a fight with a sibling or be disrespectful. Knowing these cues can mean they WANT to talk about it but don’t know how to bring it up to you or are afraid to bring it up. Start to ask questions and see if you can get them to open up and voice their frustrations
- They watch how YOU respond to tough situations, try and model more positive reactions to challenging situations
- Learn how to validate their big feelings. If something happens to really upset them, let them know you see it, you understand it and that it’s ok to be angry, upset or frustrated. Then you can follow that up with ways that will teach them how to deal with those feelings
- Point out their strengths and show them how those strengths can help get them through the areas where they struggle
- Teach your kids to spot the warning signals that anger and frustration is coming on, so they are able to start to deal with it before they let it pile up and it results in a big, blown up outburst. Heart racing, clenching fists or teeth, tapping foot, or shaking are signs your body gives you when you are under stress. If they know that and know what to look for, they are more likely to deal with anger and frustration sooner rather than later
- Learning what sparks frustration for your child will guide how you can help them when the time comes. Examples of frustrating situations for kids are: being really tired or really hungry, negative actions by other people, changes in normal routines, struggling with not understanding subjects being taught in school, and feeling like no one understands them are just a few situations that can cause emotional distress in children, leaving them to feel overwhelmed
- Encourage your kids to write down (or you can write down if they haven’t quite mastered writing yet) what is bothering them and why. It’s a good, positive way to help them “vent” because they really don’t know what that means yet, how to do it, or why it’s helpful. Once they’ve written it down, talk with them about it, let them know you understand how they feel and ways to deal with it in a positive way. Some counselors suggest letting them tear up the piece of paper they wrote on when they feel better and some say to keep it, and the next time they get upset to look back on it and see how those thoughts and feelings worked out and the ones they are currently dealing with will work out as well
- Learning how to practice deep breathing in tough situations is good for everyone, but especially for kids. Counting to a certain number slowly while they practice a few deep breaths slowly teaches them to stop, take a minute, calm themselves down and think before reacting
- No one is perfect and, even with all these great techniques, your kid will have an outburst or meltdown at some point. We all do! The key is to not meet their angry or frustrated outburst with your own angry or frustrated outburst (easier said than it is done, trust me, I know). Speaking to them in a calm manner can help them see that you are listening and you are trying to help them. The care and concern they see from you is a good sign to them that you are a safe place for them to share their feelings
- Once you are in a good practice of getting them to voice their frustrations, calm themselves and talk through it, then begin to teach them how to learn problem solving so they can start to think through how to solve problems on their own. (Obviously there are problems way out of their hands, but if it’s something they can figure out and safely fix themselves, by all means, let them do it!)
- Give them accolades, praise and high fives when they do encounter a frustrating situation but manage to remain calm and work through it
I hope this piece or information has sparked some ideas and creativity on how you can help your children face, voice, and overcome their frustrations. It’s vital to their mental health and growth and will stick with them as they journey into adulthood. There are some great ideas and practices here that I myself want to implement for me to better deal with the frustrations I encounter in my own life. We know kids listen but they truly watch what we do. Am I modeling the behavior I am asking them to practice? It’s a great way to see how we can grow, not only as parents, but as adults.
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