My Husband and I Are on Eggshells Around our Child

By Abby Bordner

I spoke to a woman who said, “My husband and I are on eggshells around our child.” She went on to describe that her six year old daughter has quite an unreasonable temper and she loses control of her emotions. She said they often don’t see it coming and worry it will happen at the drop of a hat. She felt embarrassed to say that she and her husband tiptoe around her, hoping she doesn’t lose it.

Sometimes parents go to great lengths to avoid a tantrum, a scene or an outburst from their children. Understandably, you want your children to be happy, to get along, to feel good and to feel connected with you as parents. These are noble goals but let’s face it, not always realistic.  Dealing with difficult emotions is something parents have to work on with their children to ultimately develop emotional resiliency; the ability to manage and communicate emotions in a healthy way.

Father Discussing Feelings With His Children

Father Discussing Feelings With His Children – courtesy

So, let’s talk about it. When parents are walking on eggshells around their child, they are expressing fear of their child’s emotions. Chances are your child doesn’t like his outbursts as much as you don’t. Here are some tips.

  • Face the problem. Head on. I encourage you to talk to your child about these outbursts. Tell your child, during neutral times, that you’re concerned. You don’t know what to do when he acts this way. You’d like to figure out how to support him. Ask your child what they would like you to do when they are having an outburst. Be honest and listen. Remember this is problem solving, a resourceful skill for both you and your child.
  • Don’t shy away from the tantrum when it happens. Be there for your child. Remain as calm as you can and manage your own emotions in a healthy way. Have your presence create a safe haven for your child. If you find your emotions rising, excuse yourself and tell your child you’ll be back. Take a deep breath, get a drink of water, step outside for a moment. Go beyond your anger, impatience and frustration and find some compassion for your child. Then check back in with your child to see if she needs you. Visualize your loving presence as the security your child needs.
  • Use a tone of voice that is solid and loving. Don’t give too much information during an outburst. Simply use narration. Describe your child’s emotions and the situation. Speak slowly and calmly. Don’t negotiate, beg or plead with him. Just be there witnessing her experience. Read their cues if they want to talk or they want to be alone. Keep yourself steady and don’t get drawn in to the drama. Try to be understanding. Take a deep breath and say to yourself, “I can love my child unconditionally.”
  • Once your child has calmed down, be loving toward him. Hold him, sit with him. Don’t rehash the issue right away as it may escalate again. Keep in your mind that your child is struggling and needs you right now. The recovery from an outburst is an important part of emotional regulation and kids often need the help of a trusted and loved adult to feel better. Meditate in this moment with the idea, “I fully accept myself and my child.”

Remember, eliminating outbursts is not necessarily the goal. Managing, regulating and recovering from outbursts create connection and resiliency that is good for you and your child. And eventually the outbursts will be less. Don’t be afraid of difficult emotions, see them as an opportunity to build your connection and understand her emotional process. The more you help her get through these challenging situations, the more she will gain confidence that she can manage on her own.

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