Navigating Big Emotions: A Guide to Understanding and Supporting Toddlers’ Tantrums

by LukeAdmin

By By Alita Blanchard, Parent Coach

One of the most difficult and challenging parts of early parenthood is when your sweet baby hits the toddler stage and starts to have some BIG feelings. These are commonly called ‘toddler tantrums’ and as they grow, those tantrums can become intense ‘meltdowns’.

As much as this stage can take many parents by surprise and trigger fear, pain and anger, your child is NOT ‘terrible’. They are not ‘bad’ or ‘naughty’. They are a young child with an underdeveloped brain that needs to be supported and listened to.

Tantrums and meltdowns are a communication

When a child is crying, having a tantrum or a meltdown it is likely related to:

  • A feeling of disconnection
  • Unmet needs
  • Lacking information
  • Painful feelings, stress or unprocessed trauma

When you can understand these emotional releases are simply a form of communication, you can start building tools to meet their needs, increase connection, acknowledge their feelings and help your child.

Learning to listen to their feelings

The most powerful tool is learning to stay present with your child while they release their emotions and simply listen. AND this can be the hardest thing to do for many parents because it is not part of our conditioning.
You were likely raised in an environment that never listened to your feelings – your tears, anger and upset – and so now as a parent your natural tendency may be to stop your child’s big emotions. This might look like punishment, time out, distraction with food or TV or walking away.

The problem with these tactics is that they can set up your child to have even bigger tantrums as their needs are not being met. Their painful feelings are being ignored and suppressed and will possibly come out in the form of even bigger meltdowns.

Time outs and other forms of punishment may work in the short term but long term can have considerable impacts on a child’s attachment, belief system and sense of acceptance and belonging.

Taking a holistic approach to supporting your child

If you are facing regular meltdowns and challenging behaviour in your home, there are some things you might want to consider from a holistic perspective.

  1. Increasing nutrient dense food. More vegetables, fruit, good fats, proteins, fermented foods and limiting sugar – follow @jokate_nutrition on Instagram.
  2. Toxins in your home – cleaning products, shampoo, common household sprays, scented candles can have toxic impacts on our children’s brains. Follow @lowtoxlife for insights. It needs to be a small steps journey as this can feel overwhelming.
  3. Try holistic care – find a kinesiologist, chiropractor, osteopath or occupational therapist who is supportive and knowledgeable in children’s development, brain science, vagus nerve and releasing suppressed emotions.
  4. Less activities – children don’t need lots of structured adult led activities especially under the age of 7. They need more nature, more slow, more unstructured play, more presence of adults to listen and guide.
  5. Special time – one on one time to connect and release big feelings through connected play – refer post @alitablanchardspace on Instagram.
  6. Rest – sleep is critical. If you are struggling, this is where I advocate for Aware Parenting, listening to big feelings and attachment play as a component of improving sleep. #awareparenting #cryinginarms.
  7. Listen to big feelings – this is the core of the work I am so passionate about. Guiding you, the parent, to understand why you get so triggered, why you resort to punishment, time outs, threats and reward systems, why you yell scream and rage. So that you can find more capacity to listen to your child’s big feelings.
  8. Support systems – to be able to listen to our children’s feelings we MUST have someone to listen to ours. If you don’t have a partner or friend who can hold this sort of listening space for you (many people can’t), try therapy, counselling, listening partnerships, mothers circles, parent coaching, emotions coaching or listening time.

I can empathize with how difficult it is finding support for your child when you may yourself be struggling with exhaustion, sleep deprivation, lack of emotional support and financial resources. Just take that one next step forward.

What is your biggest struggle when it comes to big emotions like anger and rage in your home? Do you have a support system in place? If not, I suggest making a basic action plan based on the above and starting to find support people. We are not meant to raise children in isolation.

Alita Blanchard is a mother of 4 young boys (including a stillborn son Remy) on the NSW Central Coast. She is a trauma informed Conscious Parent Coach, Emotional Release Coach, Women’s Circle and Rites of Passage facilitator. She provides regular mothers circles, workshops, events, listening time and parent coaching programs. Alita is passionate about creating a safe space for mothers to feel heard and seen in the intensity of their motherhood journey. She supports and guides mothers in their transformation through motherhood and helps to bring awareness to their own needs and emotions so they can feel more aligned, aware and connected to themselves and their children. Socials: @alitablanchardspace Email

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