No matter how detailed someone’s description is, sometimes, you can’t fully understand something until you face it. For parents of toddlers, dealing with their many emotions can feel brand new. No number of articles or books can truly prepare us for being in moments where our toddlers are learning how to express themselves—for better or worse. One minute, a toddler may be giggling with glee, only to experience a major tantrum seconds later. It can be mind numbing and exhausting.
One of the things that helps me is to remember that toddlers have never experienced a full range of emotions before and that it may be scary or confusing for them. Also, they don’t have the words to let us know why they’re scared, upset, or whatever they may want. How many times have we found ourselves frustrated when someone just doesn’t comprehend what we’re trying to say?
Putting Yourself in Your Toddler’s Shoes
Imagine your child is playing with their favorite stuffed animal or toy, and they’re having the time of their life. Everything seems to be going well when you suddenly see your child aggressively throw whatever they’re playing with and start screaming angrily. They may become even more upset when you try to “fix” whatever you think is wrong. This alone can feel like a lot because your toddler is learning how to navigate their emotions and you have to figure out a way to help.
Aside from tantrums, your toddler may experience bouts of anxiety or nervousness. Perhaps your toddler isn’t a fan of loud noises, like my son, and this causes them to have a meltdown. It’s one thing if it happens at home, but sometimes, these meltdowns happen in public. There may be several factors that trigger these things and it can be nerve-wracking for you as you figure out why something triggered them.
In a way, children are mirrors, and by helping them learn how to manage their emotions, we can learn how to do the same. There have been times where I’ve woken up in a bad mood and nothing helps, not even a relaxing shower or bath. It’s only after my partner has sat with me through my emotional turbulence that I’m able to feel calm. In turn, this has helped me realize that toddler emotions aren’t meant to be fixed. They are a part of the human experience and it’s up to us as parents to help them feel comfortable with their emotions.
Exercising Patience When Toddlers Have Big Feelings
We have to understand this will take time—which is where patience comes in. In a world where we have immediate access to technology and information, we sometimes expect other things in life to come quickly, but this isn’t one of those moments. The challenge can come from taking the time to manage our own emotions in the midst of helping toddlers manage theirs.
However, the more we think of our toddlers as young people who are experiencing many things for the first time, the less frustrated we’ll be when their emotions spill over. If it helps, we can try placing ourselves in their shoes by asking how many times in a week we respond in a way we’d like them to when things don’t seem to be going our way. For example, many of us have strong feelings about the troubling news stories, the pandemic, or the recent rise in gas prices.
Managing Toddler Emotions Can Help Us Slow Down and Recognize Our Own
The more we’re able to slow down and exercise patience, the more we come to find that our toddlers are able to express themselves more freely. We will begin to recognize moments where they are triggered by something and can respond accordingly. This doesn’t mean you’ll become a parent who never loses their patience because that’s an unfair expectation. The goal is to be more understanding instead of striving for perfection. The more you’re able to accept they are a small person with their own personality and emotions, the more you’ll be able to center yourself when they’re being expressive.
Kids have probably seen their parents express a range of emotions and still turn to them for comfort. If children are able to somehow exercise patience by loving us when we’re not always happy, then we can do the same for them.