What do you do when your child is angry?
No matter your child’s age, the VERY first thing we can do to help the situation is this:
YOU as the parent (teacher, grandparent, aunt/uncle, coach) GET GROUNDED.
If your “fight or flight” stress response is activated, too, and starting to escalate, you’ll react instead of respond.
It SOUNDS so simple and like “of course!” But when we are triggered, we can get caught up in the activation of our child and then our reptilian brains hijack our system, too. Our sympathetic nervous system goes on high alert. and screams, “Threat!! Threat!! Get prepared to fight this beast or high tail it out of here!”
All our “stuff” can come flooding into our minds. We feel guilty, annoyed, ashamed, tired, pulled in too many different directions. We get pulled into the past and memories of being harsh or reactive come back to us. We blame ourselves. We project into the future and wonder if our children will ever be mentally healthy.
As my colleague and fellow clinician Sarah says, we can forget that our child is having a hard time — not trying to GIVE us a hard time.
We might end up losing it or saying something we don’t mean. We throw out threats.
We have all been there!
“Getting grounded” is mental health first aid! It helps us “in the moment” of a stressful, hard time. It helps us to come back to our senses and access that frontal cortex again that’s used for executive functioning, good decision making, and creatively solving problems.
Anger can often be scary – for us and our children. We can show them that anger isn’t “bad” — it’s an indicator that something isn’t right. We can teach our children to healthily relate to anger rather than letting it overtake us and control us. It all starts with practicing GETTING GROUNDED. When your nervous system is calmer, your child’s nervous system will get calmer. That’s mirror neurons for you! When you are calmer, your heart’s electromagnetic field is one of love and connection – and this invites your child’s whole system to calm down and restore a sense of coherence. They are then more able to engage their social engagement system to see the kindness in your eyes, to sense your care, and to feel your desire to truly help.
How do you “get grounded”?
This is something I teach EVERYone in Regarding Our Children – 30-day parenting (grandparenting, etc!) course.
Getting Grounded is the foundation for responding with wisdom vs reacting out of fear.
Our children’s anger can really trigger us!
Getting Grounded helps us to dial down that stress response.
Here’s the Foundation of Getting Grounded
1. Feel your feet on the earth.
2. Say to yourself, “Soften” and then soften your knees, soften through the trunk of your body, soften the muscles in your face, soften into your throat and mouth.
3. Focus on your EXHALE for a few breaths, exhaling fully.
4. When your child is upset, that is NOT the time to lecture or educate or rationalize. It’s time to connect. It’s time to get grounded so that you bring the energy down.
5. It is NOT the time to get sucked into the past or projected into the future. It is not the time to plan, identify solutions, go into the stories in your head. Instead, acknowledge what arises AND stick with the present moment with your breath, “soften,” and getting grounded.
THAT’s the foundation for GETTING GROUNDED.
It’s mental health first aid. It helps us to come back to our senses so that we can support our kiddo in the moment.
There are also, of course, ways we can deepen and personalize the practice. And also then begin to engage with our kiddo in a way that is helpful and supportive rather than damaging, traumatizing, or enabling.
AND we also want to address the NEED behind the anger. There is ALWAYS a need behind the anger. And we want to address THAT. But NOT in the moment.
But the FOUNDATION for any “next right step” is to get grounded.
You can find out more about our next ROC round coming up! I bring my clinical experience, Somatic Experiencing training, and mindfulness training into this course to support you in empowering your child to be resilient and thrive. I’d love to have you join us. Check out what last year’s participants have to say – just click on the image: