What Do You Do When Your Child Says Scary Things?

We get angry when someone cuts us off on the road, or when it's raining on the day we planned to go to the park, or our significant other has moved something we need to use right now. It never occurred to me that these big feelings of mine were the same as the ones my son was expressing (because of course, I wasn't being as honest about them -- even though there are times when I wish I could punch someone). When we acknowledge them, we normalize them, and then have opportunities to teach them appropriate outlets for them. We may want to hit, but we don't -- we take deep breaths and talk it out, or remove ourselves from the situation, or swear quietly under our breath until it passes.

Now, if either of my children tell me they want to hurt the other, I actually welcome it as an opportunity to listen and be there for them. Our conversations usually go something like this: "I WANT TO BITE MY BROTHER!!!" "You sound really angry. Is it because you were playing with the car and he has it now?" "YES! HE TOOK MY CAR!! I WANT TO BITE HIM!!!!" "You really want to bite him. You're really upset." "YES I AM!! Will you hold me?" "Of course, honey." After a few minutes, I might say, "There's another car on the floor over there, do you want to play with that one?" And it's usually all over.

As hard as it was at first, learning to listen when those intense emotions came out was one of the best lessons for me as a mother. When my boys are out of control, they know they can come to me. They know I'm their outlet, and their rock, and I'm not going to let them get into trouble. Those feelings were scary for me to hear, but they were even scarier for my son to feel. By acknowledging them, I let him know that they're not anything to be afraid of, and that he can control them. He might want to hurt his brother, but he doesn't need to act on it. And that is a lot less scary for all of us.

How do you handle your child's scary emotions?


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