Mental Health Blog

Helping Kids Cool Off (From More Than Just the Heat)

Posted by Makenna Clements on


What kid doesn't love summer-time? Schools are out, camps are in, and everyone
s buzzing about the next big family vacation. Theres also that relentless summer heat, cooled only by a dive in the pool, a run through the sprinklers, or a few trips down the (only a little dangerous) Slip nSlide.

Your children might experience a second kind of heat, and its perhaps a little less easily appeased. Im referring to heatof the emotional persuasion. The kind often associated with irritability, combativeness, and anger. It may translate into an attitude after What should have been a great day!Or perhaps its a distinct mood-shift from happy-go-luckyto whiny, short, and grumpyas soon as theyre picked up from a friends house.

Whatever it might be, the reason is often simple: your youngster needs some time to let down from a stressful and exhausting day. Im sure we can all relate to the experience of being onfor hours and hours- maintaining a positive attitude at work, negotiating interactions with peers and colleagues, exerting copious amounts of energy to accomplish an array of tasks. As soon as we get home where its safe to turn off, we untuck our shirts, kick off our shoes, and and allow ourselves to feel the emotions weve been intentionally or unintentionally repressing for the past eight hours. Children experience a similar release.

You might be thinking,What on earth could be stressful about being an 8 year old?Well, lots of things. For you its a day at work dealing with difficult coworkers, for them its a field trip to the Jelly Belly Factory and feeling upset they didnt get to sit next to their best friend on the bus (dont tell me youve forgotten what thats like). Unbeknownst to them, theyve had a day full of countless feelings they arent totally sure how to name or handle. Ultimately its less about the content of the stress (the what), and more about the emotional processes beneath it (the why).

As an adult I need about thirty minutes to regroup at the end of a long day, and with that, a thirty minute grace period for some of my less-than-ideal responses and emotions. It only makes sense a child would need the same. This isnt to say we shouldnt hold our children accountable for their behavior, but on some level I would imagine they too are aware their sassy back talk isnt appropriate. Our best response is to be aware of what might be going on, and help them develop awareness of it as well. Validate and normalize what they might be thinking and feeling, and brainstorm with them ways to express it in more constructive ways (after theyve had a chance to cool down). Dont patronize them, and most importantly, trust the parenting youve already done.

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