Managing our emotions is difficult. On any given day, we may swing from joy to frustration, or anger to contentedness.
Adults have tools to cope with this wide range of emotions. Children, however, need to build their repertoire of tools, and grown-ups can help them!
Let’s look at one common, albeit touchy, situation in which adults can help a child learn to understand and manage their emotions.
What To Do When Your Child Has a Tantrum in Public
There are many factors that contribute to a child having a tantrum in public. Perhaps they are hungry or tired. Perhaps they feel out of control of events happening around them and they become overwhelmed.
Whatever the situation may be, there are steps that our friend Simone Davies at The Montessori Notebook recommends to help your child feel supported and heard. Give them a try!
Step 1: “Remove your child to a quiet place if possible.”
Step 2: “If it’s impossible to remove them, provide support to them where they are to first help them calm down. Some children will want to be hugged; others will push you away in which case I make sure to keep them safe and offer them a cuddle when they are ready.”
Simone reminds us, “As embarrassing as it is for our child to have a tantrum in public, we can show others that it is possible to remain a calm and kind guide to our child even when they are having a hard time. Even if it feels like everyone is judging us, this is more likely to actually get respect from others rather than being judged.”
The takeaway: As a parent, try not to worry too much about what others around you are thinking. Remain calm and help your child find calm.
Natalie Baginski of the Toddlers on the Hill school has similar advice:
“Offer the child a private space. During this essential struggle, the toddler will handle the overload better in a place not teaming with strangers, people, onlookers, and sensorial input. If the outburst is lasting with no signs of quick recovery, exit the location of distress.
If there is a quiet space (foyer, back porch, empty room, quiet office, car) it might be best to either gently take your child by the hand and let her walk to a recovery spot or, gently and lovingly carry your child and put her down immediately. This isn’t a coddling moment.” You can read more from Natalie here.
The takeaway: Some children like to be cuddled during moments of duress. Other children need space, and that’s ok too. Assess what your child is telling you verbally or non-verbally and go from there.
If your child has a tantrum in public, attempt to find a quiet space nearby. Let your child feel their emotions, and then respond with either a hug or a non-judgmental phrase such as, “I see you were really angry.”
In this way, your child knows you are nearby when they need you the most. But at the same time, you are allowing your child to feel the big emotion rather than trying to distract them or entertain. As Natalie says, the struggle is essential!
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