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An Emotional Meltdown is Often a Cry for Someone to Understand

I worked as a teacher for 10 years, a school counsellor for 9 years, and have been a parent of 2 kids heading back to school for 14 years now. I definitely know that late August/early September is an emotional time for our kids. And for us! School is starting and emotions are high. It is a time of transition, unpredictability, and anxiety.

When our kids melt down, our instinct is often to reason with them: "You don't need to be worried, everything will be fine." "The chances of getting Covid now are lower since more people are vaccinated." "Do you want me to get in touch with your teachers and ask if we can make some changes?"

But when emotions are high, reasoning doesn't really work that well. Our rational brains are swallowed up by our emotions. And reasoning with our kids, when they are emotional, often doesn't comfort them. Our kids usually aren't looking for solutions when they are overcome by emotion, they are looking to be understood.

What often works better is matching their emotion by showing we understand. We can say something like: "That sucks!!!" "You are feeling awful" "I can see that this is really important to you and you are scared." "I can see your feelings are really hurt by what they said. That was not nice at all."

When someone matches your emotion, it takes some of the pressure out of the feeling. You aren't alone anymore in your feelings. Someone gets it. You feel understood.

Once your child feels understood, you can ask "Do you feel like you are ready for a solution?" Often their answer will be no. It can definitely be reassuring to know that solutions are available, if needed. However, just having someone understand is often enough.

As parents of kids with chronic pain we know how annoying it can be when we are hurting and someone offers us a trite solution. Or an "encouraging quote."

There is great power in feeling understood. And feeling like we are not alone. Often that is all we need.

~ Carla Friesen

Licensed Psychotherapist, Pain Coach

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The general contents of this website are provided solely for educational and informational purposes and are not meant to provide professional medical or psychiatric advice, counselling or therapeutic services.

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