and help children get their equilibrium back."
(Barbara Frazier, The Successful Parent)
- The science: Play activates dopamines in the brain, while increasing attentiveness.
- Play gives children a sense of control and power that helps to calm distress and helplessness.
- Imaginary play particularly gives younger children the space to work out emotional conflicts in disguise. That is, they feel relief without full knowledge of what was worked out. Adults have the ability to talk through problems, but children put the conflicts into play situations where they can experience control and work the problems out at a distance.
Instead of resisting the cling, lean into it until your child feels calmer, then back up a little bit.
Reaffirm your love for them, make them feel important, and re-establish your bond.
There are strategies to support children in moving from acting out feelings to verbalizing them. For toddlers, this may look like offering the words to the child when they don't have the words themselves. You don't have to get detailed here, just offering words to label feelings is calming. Eventuarlly, "they will internalize your words and learn how to verbally identify the feeling themselves" (Barbara Frazier, The Successful Parent).
- Keep this simple. Offer a few different and specific words.
- Label without a lot of extra conversation
- "The words are potent and give kids a place to put the feeling and leave it" (Barbara Frazier, The Successful Parent).
Signs of regression and what to do about it: One mom’s story
The Successful Parent: What to do when your child regresses
Dr. Mark Brentin (developmental pediatrician): Mindfulness guides for children
Zero to Thrive: Ideas on what to say, how to take care of yourself right now
Ways to Untwist Your Thinking