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When our children get upset, most of us get upset, too. If the child is angry at us, we feel defensive or like the child's feelings are unwarranted. If he's upset at something else, we want to make him feel better, to make the emotions go away, as if emotions are dangerous. But the struggle is how we learn.


Your child isn't creating those feelings, and he needs your help to manage them. The only way to resolve emotions is to go through them.

Here's your game plan.

1. Calm yourself first

  • Use your pause button: Stop, drop your agenda (just for now), and take a deep breath before you engage with your child.
  • Remind yourself that your goal is to calm the storm for your child, not escalate it.
  • Don't take your child's emotions personally. This isn't about you, even if she's screaming “I hate you!” This is about her: her tangled-up feelings and still-developing brain.
  • Calm yourself with a mantra: “It’s not an emergency” or “This is an opportunity to be there for my child when he’s upset.”
  • Notice the sensations in your body.
  • Notice if you feel annoyance, or the urge to make your child’s feelings go away. Decide what your goal is to use this opportunity to build a closer relationship with your child and teach him helpful lessons about accepting and responding to emotions.

2. Connect and create safety

  • Reach out to connect emotionally, and if you can, physically.
  • Create safety with your touch, your warmth, your tone, your attitude.
  • Give your child the verbal and/or nonverbal message: “I will help you…You’re safe...You can handle this.”
  • If you breathe slowly and deeply, your child will usually begin to breathe more slowly.

3. Empathize

  • Match your child's tone. When kids feel that you really get how upset they are, they don't need to escalate.
  • Welcome the emotions and reflect them, mirroring your child’s tone. “You look so mad!” or “You seem a little worried about this sleepover.”
  • If your child is describing a problem to you, repeat back to him what you've heard: “I hear you loud and clear. You’re fed up with your brother going into your room and taking your gum."
  • If your child is expressing anger at you, resist the urge to tell her to be appropriate. Instead, acknowledge the feelings and invite her to tell you what she's upset about. “You must be so upset to talk to me that way, Kayla. Tell me what's happening.”
  • If you don't know what your child is feeling or your child gets angry when you “name” her emotions, “upset” is a good all-purpose word: “I hear how upset you are about this.”
  • Describing what your child is physically expressing helps him feel seen and heard, and can either help you name emotions or intentionally avoid it: “I see you’re biting your lip. You look worried.” Or “Your arms are crossed over your chest like this, and your brows are tight, like this. I wonder what's going on?”
  • Acknowledge your child's perspective. “You wish that….” or “This isn’t what you wanted….”
  • If your child is crying, words can be a distraction. Use them sparingly, to create safety and welcome the emotion: “Everybody needs to cry sometimes. It's good to feel those tears and let them go. I'm right here. You're safe."

4. Double-check to be sure your child feels understood by what you've said

This way, you don't have to worry about whether you were able to accurately reflect your child's feelings. Just ask.

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“Is that right?”

“Is that what you’re telling me?”

“Am I getting that?”

  • Your child may agree—“Of course I’m mad!”—and elaborate.
  • Your child may correct you: “I’m not disappointed! I’m mad!” In that case, try again. If possible, use your child's exact words so they know you're listening: “I’m sorry, Caleb. I see now how mad you are. Tell me more about why.”
  • Or your child may correct you—“I’m NOT MAD!”—even though it's clear that you were accurate in your perception.That's a signal that your child is feeling judged or analyzed rather than understood. Acknowledge the correction and start over, connecting more as you describe the child's perspective: “I hear you, Lucas. You’re not mad. Let me see if I understand. You wanted X. Is that right?”

Don’t fight about what your child is actually feeling. What's important is that she feels understood. Her awareness of what she's feeling will shift as she moves through the emotions.

5. Deepen the conversation

You can do this by offering support, validating your child’s emotion, or simply inviting your child to tell you more.Validation doesn’t necessarily mean you agree, only that you understand why your child would feel this way. Let yourself feel some of what your child is feeling, while you still stay centered.If you really feel the emotion with your child, then you may get tears in your eyes at how heartbreaking this must be for your child.

  • “Ouch, that must have hurt! Want to show me what happened?”
  • "Oh, Sofia, no wonder you’re upset.”
  • “It could be really embarrassing, to have your teacher say that.”
  • “You’re saying that I love your sister more….Ethan, that must feel so awful, to feel that…”
  • “I didn’t understand how important this was to you. Tell me more about this.”
  • “I hear how angry you are about this. What can I do to help make this better?”
  • “So I hear you’re upset because of X and also Y! Is there anything else?” Asking if there's anything else often opens the floodgates to get to the heart of why your child is upset. He may start with what a lousy mother you are for making oatmeal again, and end up telling you that he thinks you love his brother more, or he’s being bullied at school.
  • “Thank you for telling me this. I’m sorry that what I did upset you so much. Please tell me more.” When your child is angry at you, let him know you're listening. You may find out something that will transform your relationship for the better. Or you may find that his anger has nothing to do with you after all.
  • Describe the incident without judging, so your child feels understood. “Lena wanted to play with your doll and you were worried.You said ‘No!’ and hit Lena and you both cried. Right?” Telling the story helps the child to calm down, reflect, and integrate the emotions, as the emotional experience of the right frontal lobe is articulated by the verbal, more rational understanding from the left frontal lobe.

6. Problem solve

Most of the time, when kids (and adults) feel their emotions are understood and accepted, the feelings lose their charge and begin to dissipate. This leaves an opening for problem-solving.

If your child still seems upset and negative and isn’t open to problem-solving, that’s a sign that she hasn’t worked through the emotions yet and you need to go back to the earlier steps.

When your child is ready to problem-solve, resist the urge to solve the problem for them unless they ask you to; that gives your child the message that you don't have confidence in their ability to handle it. If they feel stuck, help them brainstorm and explore options: “Hmmm…..So you think you might do X. I wonder what would happen then?”

Time-consuming? Yes. But you'll notice that as you get more comfortable, you'll move through the steps quickly. Even better, you'll see your child get better at expressing emotions in a constructive way. Emotion coaching raises kids who are more emotionally intelligent. It also helps you stay calm when your child is upset, so it creates a more peaceful household.

Less drama, more love. Win-Win.

Originally posted on Aha! Parenting.

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As a mid-Spring holiday, we never knew exactly what to expect from the weather on Easter when I was growing up in Michigan: Would we get to wear our new Sunday dresses without coats? Or would we be hunting for eggs while wearing snowsuits?

Although what the temperature had in store was really anyone's guess, there were a few special traditions my sister and I could always depend on—and it won't come as a surprise to anyone who knows me that my favorite memories revolved around food. After all, experts say memories are strongest when they tie senses together, which certainly seems to be true when it comes to holiday meals that involve the sounds of laughter and the taste of amazing food.

Now that I'm a parent, I'm experiencing Easter anew as my children discover the small delights of chocolate, pre-church brunch and a multi-generational dinner. While I still look forward to the treats and feasting, I'm realizing now that the sweetest thing of all is how these traditions bring our family together around one table.

For us, the build-up to Easter eats is an extended event. Last year's prep work began weeks in advance when my 3-year-old and I sat down to plan the brunch menu, which involved the interesting suggestion of "green eggs and ham." When the big morning rolled around, his eyes grew to the size of Easter eggs out of pure joy when the dish was placed on the table.

This year, rather than letting the day come and go in a flash, we are creating traditions that span weeks and allow even the littlest members of the family to feel involved.

Still, as much as I love enlisting my children's help, I also relish the opportunity to create some magic of my own with their Easter baskets—even if the Easter Bunny gets the credit. This year, I'm excited to really personalize the baskets by getting an "adoptable" plush unicorn for my daughter and the Kinder Chocolate Mini Eggs that my son hasn't stopped talking about since seeing at the store. (You can bet this mama is stocking up on some for herself, too.)

At the same time, Easter as a parent has opened my eyes to how much effort can be required...

There is the selection of the right Easter outfits for picture-perfect moments.

There is the styling of custom Easter baskets.

There is the filling of plastic eggs and strategic placement of them throughout the yard.

But when the cameras are put away and we all join together around the table for the family dinner at the end of the day, I can finally take a deep breath and really enjoy—especially with the knowledge that doing the dishes is my husband's job.

This article was sponsored by Kinder. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.


Our Partners

Starting this weekend Target will be limiting the number of people allowed in its stores to give shoppers and staff more space to spread out and adhere to social distancing recommendations during the coronavirus pandemic.

"Beginning April 4, Target will actively monitor and, when needed, limit the total number of people inside based on the store's specific square footage," the company notes in a news release.

You'll also notice staff wearing gloves and masks over the next two weeks as the company steps up its coronavirus protection measures.

Many people are choosing to stay home and order groceries online, but that's not an option for everyone as long lines at some Target's prove.

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"We're incredibly proud of the commitment our more than 350,000 frontline team members have demonstrated to ensure millions of guests can count on Target, and we'll continue to focus our efforts on supporting them," says Target's Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, John Mulligan.

Target is open this weekend but—along with Costco, Aldi, Publix and Trader Joe's—Target stores will be closed on Easter Sunday to give the essential employees in these stores a much-deserved break.

I was blissfully asleep on the couch while my little one was occupied elsewhere with toys, books and my partner. She got bored with what they were doing, escaped from his watch and, sensing my absence, set about looking for me. Finding me on the couch, nose-level, she peeled back my one available eyelid, singing, "Mama? Mama? ...You there? Wake UP!"

Sound familiar? Nothing limits sleep more than parenthood. And nothing is more sought after as a parent than a nap, if not a good night's rest.

But Mother Nature practically guarantees that you are likely to be woken up by a toddler—they're hardwired to find you (and get your attention) when you're "away."

FEATURED VIDEO

According to attachment theory, when you respond to the needs of your child, a strong bond is formed and woven into their personality, serving as a basis for all future emotional ties. So your kids love and depend on you. And they can feel anxious when involuntarily separated from you, like when you are asleep.

Child psychologist Esther Cohen suggests that it is fairly universal that infants and toddlers try to open the eyes of their sleeping parents. Her theory is that when you are present, but with your eyes shut, you are not responsive, and on some level this causes your child a form of "emotional distress." So the best and easiest way for them to feel better is to wake you up.

Cohen believes that reestablishing eye contact bridges the gap between your physical presence and your emotional presence, making the situation feel normal again. Your kids are relieved that you are alert and there to interact with them—and that you are available to protect them.

Kids are hardwired to seek our attention all the time.

At birth, your brain is only about 25% of its adult volume. Born particularly vulnerable, you depend on years of loving care. This prolonged helplessness has resulted in the evolution of certain behaviors—like baby coos, smiles and crying—that increase your odds of survival within your family.

By the toddler age, they've developed a sense of who you are and what you can do in relation to people, and realize when they are separate from their parents. Toddlers also have what's called object permanence—they can understand who or what is, or is not, present. That means they'll search for objects and people. (And wake you up when they find you.)

Bottom line: When you sneak off for a nap and your toddler looks for you, know that this is a natural instinct for them, and they will grow out of it. But for now, when you are asleep, you are not there, so your kids must. wake. you. up.

And for an extra fun fact: Research indicates that this also could be why it's so hard for you to ignore your partner when working from home. They are there, but technically not available, so you

continually find reasons to interact with them—just like waking them up from a nap. 😉
Life

Navigating family dynamics during or after a divorce is already a tremendous challenge. Throw a highly transmittable virus and a global pandemic into the mix, and many parents will be left with more questions than answers. Matters of custody, financial stability and mental and emotional health take on new significance—and new challenges—under these circumstances. But you can do it, mama.

As a divorce attorney, I've worked with numerous families during these past weeks, in various stages of the divorce process, all of whom are learning to navigate and negotiate unfamiliar dynamics created by the coronavirus pandemic.

Here are my tips for co-parenting in the context of COVID-19.

1. Show children that you are calm.

Parents know better than anyone how perceptive children are. Even so, we often forget how our moods and anxieties can unintentionally affect our children. To keep the calm in the household, let children see things are under control: Ensure that potential disagreements with your co-parent are kept in conversations between the two of you (not in front of the kids), and give yourself time and space to manage your own stress and anxiety. Stressed children mean stressed parents—and the principle applies in reverse as well.

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2. Be transparent with your co-parent.

Communicate as openly and honestly as possible with your co-parent about yourself and your children. Keep your co-parent updated about you and your children's location, home education and health (physical and emotional). It is critical that, in the case of an emergency and in everyday life, both parents be fully aware and in sync regarding children's whereabouts and welfare. Transparency breeds trust; secrets breed mistrust and animosity.

3. Keep your rules.

Because this moment feels so uncertain and some of our regular norms have fallen by the wayside, there can be a tendency to let other household rules start to slide. Make sure everyone remembers their responsibilities within the family.

School might be at the kitchen table now, but having children make their beds, get dressed and brush their teeth in the morning helps maintain a sense of normalcy that can be helpful for children when things seem tumultuous. Maintain chore schedules, eat dinner together and continue to follow rituals and rules that remind children (and parents) of the responsibilities we have.

4. Consult your health care provider when disagreements arise.

If you disagree on social distancing measures, I usually advise both parents to telephone their child's pediatrician or health care provider and agree ahead of time to follow their advice. Parents can also consult the CDC measures and agree to follow those protocols. Educating your co-parent can be the most helpful thing to do now.

If you are divorced and work with a parenting coordinator, they may also be a helpful resource. If not, a third party, like a mutually trusted friend or relative can serve as an impartial mediator to help you come to a reasonable agreement.

5. Maintain boundaries.

For parents and children in this time, it is important to maintain a degree of personal space. Many of us have been directed to self-quarantine, and isolation is not easy. The nationwide efforts to keep us apart in order to contain the virus have put many of us in closer contact with those around us than we may be accustomed to.

Constant shared space and time can certainly introduce new stress into an already tense environment. While these small measures may not seem significant, taking time to yourself to be alone—even just in a separate room—can be healthy and good for group morale. Take a walk, do some yoga, whatever it looks like, take care of yourself as a parent right now.

Be flexible with your co-parent.

Flexibility, transparency and reasonableness need to be at the forefront of all decisions. Remember that this is an unprecedented situation, and it calls for flexibility, especially in scheduling.

Both sides need to be reasonable if someone becomes ill, of course. If your co-parent can't travel due to illness, then you need to be understanding about this issue and work with them to provide makeup time for the future. But the situation also calls for transparency by the parent who is sick. That parent should provide the information necessary to make the co-parent feel comfortable that they have appropriate resources and are taking proper precautions to keep children and adults safe and healthy.

Plan ahead.

While immediate concerns may be taking center stage right now, planning for the future has never been more crucial. Make time to sit down with your current or ex-spouse and take stock of your respective finances, your job security and your co-parenting schedule management as soon as possible, and create a plan (and a backup plan) for going forward. Though it may not be comfortable, transparency with your current or ex-spouse is essential.

Be smart, plan ahead and above all, stay safe.

Love + Village

As a mom of three and former social worker working for many years in the fields of adoption, Sara Ester of Sara Liz Photography knows firsthand the importance of family time. When she learned that families all over the country are self-isolating due to the coronavirus outbreak, she knew it was the perfect time to capitalize on moments of connections. Her mission was simple: promote family time to ease stress and promote happiness.

Liz reached out to dozens of families on social media asking if they would like to be photographed on their porch for a "Front Porch Session" and the responses were huge.

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Photo by: Sara Liz Photography

"Amid all the COVID-19 stuff going on I asked if families would be interested in a quick five-minute session on their front porches to document what a crazy experience it has been to be quarantined at home," Ester told Popsugar. "The people participating ran with it! So many families made funny or encouraging signs, showed up in their pajamas or yoga pants, and just really embraced the whole 'quarantine chic' idea. It was really reaffirming to see how everyone is in the same boat. We're all just trying to do the best we can with a crappy situation!"


Photo by: Sara Liz Photography

We're living in perilous times and it's nice to see families using the lockdown as an opportunity to bond. After all, it doesn't matter how big or small your house is, it's the love inside that counts.

Photo by: Sara Liz Photography


"Photography, specifically documentary photography is a big part of how I see and function in the world a lot of the time," Ester shared in an Instagram post. With everything being so overwhelming the last week or so, it has helped me to also keep in mind that what we are dealing with is historical."

News
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