What about those intense emotional storms?

QUESTION:

What do I do about those intense emotional storms?

Answer:

I understand–I have two very emotionally-intense children.

Some children have no emotional levels; depending on the situation, their intensity goes immediately from a one to a 10. It’s important to identify the real needs and feelings, and meet the needs and validate the feelings – but the need of a child who is over the top may be someone to tell them to knock it off. When a child is completely over the top emotionally, they are trying to make everyone else in the room be responsible for their feelings, and they can be quite effective at holding an entire household hostage.

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I have had to work with Liam, in particular, to identify what level something really is. When he explodes his emotions everywhere, I might respond, “Honey, bring this down to a three where it belongs. You may be upset, but you may not howl and scream like that.” We started this by playing some games where I gave him a scenario and asked him how intense he thought a reaction should be. I then acted out his idea, and we talked about where I thought it was. Sometimes when he overreacts, I will respond to him at the same level to show him how inappropriate it is (not in a mocking way, but just at that level; usually he laughs, but if he gets upset I apologize and suggest he calm down a bit).

I also do not hesitate to set my boundaries (and boundaries for whoever else may be present) as it relates to their expression of emotions – not having the emotions, but the expression of them. Just like I tell my children, “You may be angry. You may not hit,” I say, “You may be sad. You may not howl in my ear if you want me to comfort you.” And if the expression is just going way beyond reason in time or intensity, then I suggest to my children that they may have their big feelings but they need to settle down or go finish expressing themselves in their room.