How to Deal with Emotional Toddlers

I deal with at least one outbreak a day. Not a tantrum, not her being rude, not her hitting, not her disobeying me, but her breaking down in tears. I don’t know if I’ve cushioned her to becoming emotional, or if that’s just how she expresses herself. This is new territory for my husband and me.

The crocodile tears stream down her face, her bottom lip quivering, her body tensing up. I can’t understand a word she is saying, and then I notice myself getting mad at her. Mad because I don’t see why she is crying, and over what? What could have possibly happened to make her this sad?

It took me a while to realize this, but my getting angry with her for being angry was completely wrong. These are her emotions and they are real to her. Even though the world is not coming to an end, in her eyes, it is.

After realizing I have an emotional toddler, and there is at least one breakdown a day, I took a step back and tried to understand why there was a breakdown? Was there a pattern? Was it during a certain time of day? Was it when she was playing with a certain toy? Was it when she was playing with her sibling?

In our case, she breaks down when she is tired, which then turns into her becoming overly so. Thus, the end of the world.  It’s harder for her to comprehend things, and harder for her to realize that this can be fixed.

After going through this for quite some time, I have learned some tricks that help us get through our end-of-the-world, emotional melt down situation.

Sympathize with them:

Your child feels safe with you. They feel like when something has gone wrong, the first person they can go to for help, is YOU! Don’t ruin this. Their problems will get bigger as they get older, and I hope that I’m still their #1 person they can count on. When they come down, yelling or crying to tell you what happened, try not to say things like, “just stop crying and go figure it out.” or “Go play with something else.” No, this is a real problem to them. Take a breath. And sympathize with them. Instead of saying go figure it out yourself, try saying, “I’m sure that’s really frustrating. I’m very sorry. Let’s try calming down a little and then we will go fix the problem together.” Help them! Because of this, my daughter has now come down the stairs saying, “Mom, I’m feeling a little frustrated. Can you help me?”

Embrace them:

Even though you and I can clearly see that the problem will get solved, to them, it truly feels like they cannot move on until the solution gets solved. If they come down the stairs angry, or emotional, don’t just brush them off. Think about times when you get frustrated? Do you want to hug your partner and just let your frustrations out? I know I do. Hug your toddler! Let them know that you are here for them, that you hear them, and that you are there to help. If they tell you they are frustrated, hug them, and say, “I’m sorry you’re feeling frustrated.” Let them feel safe in your arms, and help them cool down a little bit with a nice hug.

Suggest some alone time:

There are times when my daughter gets frustrated with her one-year-old brother. She just finished a puzzle, and here he comes, stomping on her finished work. I don’t blame her, as that would be frustrating for me too! After she spends all her time with him, there are days where she has just had it. And I get it. If they aren’t having the most cohesive day, split them up. I often times will let my daughter play in her room, with some princess music on, and the door closed, so her brother cannot disrupt her imagination and hard work of play. After about 30 minutes or so, she seems refreshed, and ready to be the big sister again. But I get it! Sometimes, you just need your own space. Let your toddlers have their own space, where they don’t have to worry about their projects being ruined by younger siblings.

Suggest a nap:

I know I’m kind of a unique case, in the sense that my daughter, who is almost four, still takes naps. But, if your little one does not regularly take a nap, try and take one! Almost 90 percent of the time my daughter has some emotional breakdown, it’s because she is tired! I tell her to go lay on my bed and I’ll be up in a minute, and by the time I’m up there, she is asleep. That explains the emotions. If yours doesn’t take naps, maybe suggest some “quiet time” where they can read stories on their bed, and just relax for a little bit. Let them have some quiet time. Some “Zen” so to speak.

Toddlers are constantly going. Constantly moving. Their minds constantly spinning. Emotions of all sorts are bound to emerge. But try and understand the “why” behind the emotions, and soon, you’ll have them under control.


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