The emotional child

Discussion in 'The Toddler Years(1-3)' started by ECUBitzy, Oct 15, 2014.

  1. ECUBitzy

    ECUBitzy Well-Known Member

    I've been needing to post about this for eons and haven't had an opportunity. My sanity won't let me put it off any longer, though!

    Alexis is my emotional kid. She's very sensitive and tends to absorb her environment and bottle things up until she just falls apart. Depending on how long she's been stressed or tired or overstimulated, she'll either cry inconsolably (oh my gosh, it's so heartbreaking) or she'll go into a full meltdown with yelling and stomping and theatrics.

    We've been talking about tools for regaining control (walk away, take deep breaths, count), but I can't see that we're making progress. The problem is that neither Paul nor I is this personality type and we really have a hard time seeing the signs of a meltdown coming to head them off. It seems like some preventive measures could help, but we cannot identify where to start!

    She's melted down a few times at school (and I get it- it's a lot to take in and her sister isn't there to support her) so we've talked to her teacher, too. The teacher said she doesn't see Lexi's triggers, either.

    So, please, help. What am I missing? How can I help her learn to sense her overload building to head things off? What else can we do to deal with the freak outs when they do happen?
  2. ECUBitzy

    ECUBitzy Well-Known Member

    Oh, and for anybody who doesn't know or can't see my ticker, Alexis is 4.5 and in all day Junior K. She and her sister are separated for the first time.
  3. Rollergiraffe

    Rollergiraffe Well-Known Member TS Moderator

    Poor Lexi! Do you think it's related to not having Sam in her class? If so, maybe having a little "safe" token like a worry doll or something to put in her pocket that she can hold when she gets stressed? And maybe between you and the teacher you can decide on some safe places to go when she's feeling overwhelmed for a few minutes?
    On days where she melts down is she sleeping well? Does she still need a nap, or time to zone out after school to get some rest? I find when my boys haven't had enough down time, it's meltdown city.
    Does she tell you later what made her upset? We do a lot of postmortem analysis with the boys to talk about how we felt, who we could have told, what we could have done instead. It sort of works.. we haven't quite got to forethought yet, but they can at least understand how things escalated
    I also spend a lot of time narrating how I feel about things, and then I ask the boys how they feel about the same thing. It's actually pretty eye-opening.. I have learned all kinds of stuff that they like and don't like, but they never really expressed it until I asked them directly. It's helped us in a lot of ways, because I can help set them up for what to expect (e.g. "I know you don't like x, but we might see one today") and they also volunteer a lot more information now that it's more of a habit. There's less "surprises" now. When one kid has had a crappy day too, I'll try and take them aside at some point and just ask them some questions about their day and the reasons usually come out.
  4. miss_bossy18

    miss_bossy18 Well-Known Member TS Moderator

    Danika's my kettle. Things are fine until they're really, really not. What I do here is acknowledge ("You're really angry/sad/frustrated/mad. I hear you"). Sometimes that's all she needs. Other times she's too far gone and it gets really physical (kicking, hitting, throwing). My rule of thumb is that as long as it's not damaging people or property she can do as she needs to to release physically. So I won't let her hit or kick me, but she can punch a pillow or kick the yoga ball (that one seems to really work well for her. I hold the yoga ball so it doesn't go flying and she seems to find the bounce of it really satisfying when she kicks it). She can't throw a book or hard toy but she can throw her stuffies against the wall. I've found making space for the physical release of the emotion is key. Without the release it just gets buried and comes out again harder and stronger another day. Once the physical release is winding down, she usually needs some cuddles or sometimes she wants to be alone for a bit. I check in with her and we go from there. Later on that day or sometimes the next day, when we're both calm and connected, we debrief. We talk about what helped and what didn't. I ask her if there's anything she'd like to try differently next time. Sometimes there is, sometimes there isn't.

    One big perspective shift for me has been realizing that she finds her tantrums as overwhelming as I do. The intensity of her emotion is scary to her and she's looking to me to be her anchor. Sometimes in her tantrums she yells over and over "I can't calm down. I can't calm down." That hurts my heart a bit but we often talk about how the only way out is through. That emotions come and go, even the big ones, and that she will still be okay on the other side. That I always love her, that nothing she says or does can change that. She sometimes really needs that reassurance, especially if her anger or hurt has been directed right at me.

    Ultimately, time has been the biggest factor. As she gets older, as she gains some control over her impulses, as she's had an opportunity to practice her own emotional regulation, things have improved.
  5. kingeomer

    kingeomer Well-Known Member TS Moderator

    I have to second what both Jen and Rachel said.  I know for my kids, one of their triggers was either being hungry or tired.  Age has made their emotional regulation much better, not that they don't have their moments, because they do---but the meltdowns happen infrequently.
    I think a big help is the post mortem analysis, as Jen mentioned, usually when the child in question is calmed down that's when we can talk about what happened, how was he or she feeling and maybe work together on ways to avoid such a meltdown the next time.
  6. ECUBitzy

    ECUBitzy Well-Known Member

    I suppose I find it somewhat reassuring that I'm not alone?

    It's not hunger or fatigue related , as they eat well and often (school even has multiple snack times) and they sleep 7:30-6:30 and still nap an hour and a day (longer on weekends). There's no conceivable way to fit in more sleep.

    We do those things (talking about it after, letting her release it AT HOME).

    My biggest problem is that this behavior is not acceptable at school. Absolutely cannot continue to happen. The girls are at a parochial school and it just can't fly. Even next year, though, at Paul's public school it would result in a write-up for disrupting the classroom.

    It is helpful that she'll begin to outgrow it. That will help Paul and I cope, anyway. ;)
  7. ECUBitzy

    ECUBitzy Well-Known Member

    And Rachel, you described Alexis perfectly. She's like a kettle (we said boiling pot with a lid) and she really seems to lose control of her emotions.

    We'll keep talking!
  8. TP

    TP Well-Known Member

    I have a daughter who is a "pressure cooker" ..... What helps her is me giving her demonstrations of how I calm myself whenever I am upset. I make a point to say "I had a crappy ...XYZ was so hurtful...I am just going to spend some time by my self / write ina diary / have a run on a trade mill etc.
    I think it helps her to see that every one has strong emotions and that it can be possible to deal with that.
    We also spend lot of time talking about feelings when she is calm and that helps too...
    I am really dreading the teen ages
  9. Rollergiraffe

    Rollergiraffe Well-Known Member TS Moderator

    A 4.5 year old will get written up? It seems pretty normal to not have great emotional regulation at that age, so if anything, the teachers should be helping her to address strategies for it. One thing I learned from crappy daycare; don't let them pin stuff on a kid if they're not willing to help at school. Every kind of school has to work with where kids are at developmentally.
    One thing that a behavioural consultant told me, and was right about, was that there was a huge difference in emotional maturity between 4 and 5. Now at 5.5 my boys are light years ahead of where they were a year ago. So some of these problems will just take care of themselves with time.
  10. ljcrochet

    ljcrochet Well-Known Member TS Moderator

    Could it be related to food?  I know I can tell right way what type of snacks my girls have at girl scouts based on how they are acting.  It is like the white flour, sugar and food dyes just makes one of my girls out of sorts.  
  11. ECUBitzy

    ECUBitzy Well-Known Member

    Yeah, they write up. It's not all disciplinary, but it's a record in case of escalation. Alexis's teacher has been trying to just remove her from the room to help her calm down. She's also identified one meltdown as spurred by fear of the bathroom exhaust fan, so she helped her turn it off afterward (to teach her to control what she can in her environment). I do feel like I have an ally in her, but it's rough going.

    Lisa- totally food. On refined sugar days (cookies, cupcakes, candy), she's a mess. We don't do them at home and on Star Student Thursdays we always have hell to pay.

    I hate wishing away time, but come on 5.5, then!!! ;)

    Edited because "food" does not always equal "good," autocorrect.
  12. Rollergiraffe

    Rollergiraffe Well-Known Member TS Moderator

    That's great that she's willing to help. I do think some kids just take longer to adjust to the whole big scary world. It's good that you're on top of it.. having mom in your corner goes a long way.
  13. Leighann

    Leighann Well-Known Member

    Both of mine are pretty emotional kids, but in totally different ways. Meara is heart on her sleeve 24/7 kind of girl, whereas Ana is my bottle it up and then explode girl.  Sounds like your little A girl is like my A girl.  
    The biggest trigger for Ana is change in routine.  New routines or transitions (at that age- she is getting better now at 7 1/2) are hard on her.  She doesn't like to feel out of control, and then when she gets upset, feels MORE out of control and it spirals.  When Ana was in pre k we talked to the teacher and Ana was allowed to go take her own time out if she was getting upset.  This was not a disciplinary time out, it was a "time for Ana to calm down."  She could go sit in reading center on a bean bag chair and look at a book.  Even now when she is upset she will usually remove herself from the situation and go in another room and read a book.  When she was little she used to go in her bed and suck her thumb.  
    Helping her identify her own cues, naming her feelings, and letting her know its ok to go take a break have helped.  Some days though she has trouble calming herself and needs me to hug and cuddle her.  Meara ALWAYS needs me to hug and cuddle her and this was from day 1 :)  Also, one of their friends at school has a picture of her family taped on her desk at school and it helps her calm down when she is feeling overwhelmed.  I know other moms on this board have posted about their kids being able to go see their twin sib during the day at school, when they first transitioned to being apart.  Do you think it would comfort her to visit Sam?  
    Good luck!!! 
  14. miss_bossy18

    miss_bossy18 Well-Known Member TS Moderator

    I'm not sure what the school expects? I can guarantee that if she *could* control her outbursts she would. Children don't like their tantrums, they feel overwhelmed and out of control and need help creating a safe space to let their feelings out. Sometimes the trigger isn't even really the issue - it's just the straw that breaks the camel's back, so to speak, and allows the catharsis of emotional release to begin. Not knowing the school or the teachers, it's hard to make suggestions. I'd be pretty uncomfortable with a school that was unable or unwilling to allow my child space to just be when needed.

    What's a parochial school?
  15. ECUBitzy

    ECUBitzy Well-Known Member

    I may ask if she can be offered a hug from her sister when she's upset. It actually might help!

    Rachel, it's a catholic school. Catholic schools aren't private- they're associated with and funded in part by a parish (my husband's in this case).
  16. kingeomer

    kingeomer Well-Known Member TS Moderator

    Stephanie, my kids go to a Catholic school.  I can tell you they have classmates who do have issues with handling emotions (I have heard tales of temper tantrums in kindergarten, biting, hitting, etc) and this stuff is carrying on to some of the kids in first grade.  I know the parents are working with the teachers about it, because my kids tell me that---my kids are VERY nosy and a bit gossipy and we have had talks about that--- I'd say your daughter is not out of the norm here for her age though.  I am glad the teacher is working with you but I'd also be concerned about the write ups.  She is 4. I get having to learn how to behave in the classroom and what not but I'd also ask is there a counselor on staff that visits the school that she could see.  A counselor might be able to help her, if the teacher and you are willing to keep a log of incidents that happen in case she does have a meltdown and the counselor is not there that day. Maybe the counselor could sense a pattern or find a common thread here.
    Just as an example, something I witnessed, in kindergarten one of their classmates at the Halloween party wanted a certain kind of Munchkin and that munchkin was not available and therefore he refused to eat anything, had a little fit and sit at his desk with his head down.  The teacher made an offer of food and when he refused, she said this is the choice you are making then and moved on.  He did not eat anything but he moved with the rest of the party.  At the same party, my daughter was getting all teary eyed because she did not win the hot potato game.  I know how she gets about those things...she hates to lose them and we had gone over it in the morning and she still got filled up.  I took her aside and said, everyone but one person loses this game and there are more losers than winners...stop.  
    I am glad that you and the teacher are on top of it and I think it is situation that will be resolved.  Keep us posted!
  17. Hey20791

    Hey20791 New Member

    I have an emotional kid, now the twins are almost 4.5 years. He seems to have high sensory capabilities and awareness of his surroundings. I have found out accidentally at 3.5 years, that cutting screen time to zero makes a lot of difference in his emotional well being. First week it was tough, almost like withdrawal symptoms but you need to stay your ground.. good thing about having twins is they have each other to play and keep occupied.They are in preschool from 3.5 years, they started each in a different class because I figured it is better to separate them, so it was never assumed they should be in the same class and they accepted it that way.
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