Big Emotions. Little Bodies.

I’m having a really hard day. I can’t imagine how hard it is for my toddler as well. Together we’re both dealing with some really big emotions. I forget how much we have to teach our littles as they become more integrated with society.

We’re not automatically born with the tools to handle our emotions — as much as we (caregivers) wish our little toddlers were born with them. Being that person to show how to handle our frustration, anger, sadness, and excitement is not an easy task as well. Some of the times we’re realizing we never got the tools to cope with these feelings ourselves. So what’s a caregiver to do?

In my previous article “Choosing How to Parent”, I mentioned a few social media accounts I’ve been following to act as a self-guided therapy to be able hone in on my feelings and to better showcase how to handle them with my toddler. It has been a process and there’s always setbacks.

(There are always those people who will say that we’re creating soft humans. To which I respond, I’d rather have a mindful, kind human than a unempathetic, emotionless human.)

As I’ve mentioned in “Choosing How to Parent”, I decided to try my hand in authoritative parenting style “gentle parenting”. As I’m about to write this, I take a deep breath. In doing this, I’ve realized I have so many triggers to my frustration and anger and I’m also not handling it as well as I should. I’ve had to apologize multiple times to my little one. We’ve both cried together. We both need hugs to make ourselves feel better. It’s been a journey and I’m really trying to work on myself to be better.

I wish they would’ve told you this before you became a parent. This should be a prerequisite when you’re pregnant. Go to therapy. If you can’t afford therapy, take some time to reflect on how you handle different situations in your life with your partner, your co-workers, your parents, etc. Is this how you want to model emotional regulation to your child?

I’ve been really working on the “if no, why not?” philosophy as well. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve tried to set boundaries because I don’t want to deal with the consequences later on. I’ve had a few friends mention this philosophy to me and I’ve started to take a deep breath and think to myself “if no, why not?” and if I can’t find a reason I let it go. This has helped limit the amount of tantrums from both myself and my toddler.

If things get really rough with my toddler’s emotions I make sure they have their safe space to let them ride out the storm. If I’m in there with them, they resort to hitting and pinching. I’ve established that I will not take being hit or pinched, so most of the time they will have their cry and find a toy they can squeeze tightly or bite to help release that emotion build up. When they’ve reached their calm we usually end it with a hug.

I’ve also been taking care of myself during nap breaks and whenever the secondary parent comes home. Being a stay-at-home mom has its challenges because it is on you 24/7 to be the emotions regulator. I cannot imagine what it must be like as a working mom. I would not be able to handle work emotions and toddler emotions at simultaneously — working moms/dads, you rock.

Here’s what I do during my “self-care” time:

  1. Take a deep breath. It’s okay. Everyone is safe. Everyone is healthy. We’re okay.
  2. Reflect. Did I handle myself well during that latest tantrum? What could I have done differently. How can I approach my toddler differently so they wouldn’t react that way again?
  3. Meditate. Realize that all of it will not be detrimental to my toddler’s health. I am not a terrible mom. I am allowed to have my big feelings, too.
  4. Complete a task. I love being able to complete a task during me time. It makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something during the day other than taking care of my toddler.
  5. Talk with friends. I usually spend the time I can be on my computer or phone, chatting with my friends. This is when I can catch up on how they’re doing.
  6. Watch TV. Just because my toddler is getting limited screen time, doesn’t mean I do!
  7. Write. :)

At the end of the day, it’s important to remind ourselves that we all can have big feelings and that’s okay.

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Emi Sano

Emi Sano

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Emi Sano is a self-published author of “Voices: a short story collection” and YA novella “We Don’t Talk About That.” She freelances as a writer/blogger.