Your 4 3/4-year-old: Taming emotions

Your 4 3/4-year-old: Taming emotions

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Your 4-year-old now

One of the greatest gifts you can give your child is teaching her how to calm herself when emotions are boiling over. Self-calming is not an easy thing to learn — or to teach, since most of us are still perfecting the skill.

Since you want to catch her before she explodes, you first need to recognize signals that she's about to lose it. Does she whine or lash out verbally? Maybe her body language or tone of voice tells the story. If she's frustrated playing with her blocks, does she clench her teeth? Once you know her cues, you can discuss them with her. The goal is to get her to recognize on her own when she's emotionally on the edge.

The next step: teaching some simple anger management and stress relief techniques that will help her cope with strong feelings. It can be as simple as showing her how to take a deep breath: "When you feel like whapping your little brother, stop and take a deep breath and then let it out." Or, "Take a deep breath and count to three, then let the air slowly blow out your mouth." Practice together; eventually it can become second nature.

Physical activity lowers stress and clears frustrated minds, so getting outside can help. Warm baths, soft music, a back rub — these kinds of sensory activities soothe as well. "You're beginning to whine and get frustrated. Let's take a bath to help you calm down." Although your child won't be able to give herself a back rub whenever she's frustrated, your doing so helps her learn to identify her strong feelings and realize that it's possible to tame them.

Your life now

Just because your 4-year-old is turning 5 doesn't mean she has the maturity of a big kid. Brace yourself for a possible meltdown during birthday celebrations. As the high excitement of anticipation meets the event itself (plus presents, sugar, people, maybe a later bedtime), the birthday kid can easily be overwhelmed. Cajoling or reprimanding often only makes things worse. Better to give your celebrant a little quiet time and turn your attention to the guests while she recovers.

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