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Helping Kids with Big Emotions with Meaghan Jackson Podcast Episode 117

Wish you had a calm and peaceful family life? But kids and big emotions always seem increase the stress levels?

You're not alone!

Today Dr Orlena chats to Meaghan Jackson, a parenting coach, about how to help her 4 kids with their big emotions.

In this episode we are going to talk about:

  • How can you help your child with big emotions?
  • How to teach kids coping skills?
  • How to manage sibling fighting?

Transcript Of Helping Kids With Big Emotions

Hello, and welcome to Fit and Fabulous with me, Dr Orlena Kerek.

Today, we are talking to a very special guest Meaghan Jackson from Joyful Mud Puddles. We're going to be talking about kids and big emotions.

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A woman and her toddler watching hot air balloons #parenting #raisingkids #positiveparenting

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Interview With Meaghan Jackson

I would like to say a big thank you and hello to Meaghan. Let's dive in and talk about kids and big emotions

Dr Orlena: Meaghan, Thank you so much for being here.

Meaghan: I am thrilled to be chatting with you.

Dr Orlena: Fabulous. We are going to talk all about big emotions and kids. Essentially, I'm going to use you to pick your brains about how I can help my family and my kids be a little bit calmer.

Meaghan: I love it. I love real-life practicals. So let's jump in.

As Parents, Do You Also Wish For A Calmer Home?

Dr Orlena: Just to set the scene. I have four boisterous children. Is there such a thing as a calm and tranquil child?

Meaghan: I don't have any of those children. I have four go-out-and get-them kind of kids.

Dr Orlena: Before Christmas, we moved into a small house. We're only here for a year. It does mean all my children are sharing, so two and two. It means as well that we have to be a little bit more considerate. There isn't that space to spend a little bit of time by yourself, have your own private space.

We're concentrating on creating calm and enjoyable moments. We want to be calm and enjoyable morning time and lunchtimes. My kids come back for lunch and dinner time.

Essentially, all the times when we're together, I would like them to be calm and enjoyable. 

How Do You Handle Your Kids Big Emotions?

Perhaps I have set my expectations a little bit too high. It would still be useful to just dive in and think about things.

Let me think of an example. This morning, I was having my breakfast outside. My eight-year-old twins were sat at the table and they were eating inside. I could hear screaming, which kind of went like, "Yes! No! Yes! No!"

I think this brings up so many questions. I'll list all my questions first, and then we can come back to them. My first thing is how do I handle that in the moment? I'll tell you what I did in a bit but the response I got wasn't ideal.

I think I've got the immediate bit. Also, those skills to teach them to communicate well and handle their big emotions. I know as well that part of it is about me and how I'm doing in the background.

Meaghan: That's big. There's a lot to unpack there. Let's see how far we get. It sounds so typical because I can imagine I hear it all the time too. I'm sitting in another room and I hear them yelling and it escalates.

When Kids Are Fighting, Pause And Listen.

My first instinct would be to pause and keep listening. Usually, that's when your kids have some better communication skills. They can often work it out on their own.

Oftentimes as parents, our own childhood or our own fears jumped in. We rush in to save the day when we could have paused first. 

I would say to pause first and keep listening. See if it sounds like you need to step in.

If You Feel The Need To Intervene, Trust Your Instinct 

Dr Orlena: Can I just confirm when you say pause first, do you mean don't even go into that room?

Meaghan: There's a fine line and It takes practice. If your kids aren't used to it, then maybe step in. So if you feel like, "Okay, I can hear the screaming now. I feel like I need to do something." A lot of it is trusting your instincts.

Your Presence Is Sometimes Enough To Calm The Kids.

Sometimes just your presence in the room is enough of a reminder for them like, "Oh, mom's coming in the room. We should stop."

Just stand there for a second. It could be five seconds or 10 seconds. Just stand there where at least one or both of them can see you. You don't have to rush in and say anything.

Asking The Kids If They Need Your Help Is A Non-Judgemental Approach.

If you feel like they're not stopping and your presence isn't doing any good. Then ask them if they need your help, "Oh, sounds like you guys are having an argument. Do you need my help?" They might say, "No, we've got this" or "we were just discussing." Sometimes they were just playing and you misunderstood. They're playing for yelling.

Asking if they need you to step in is better because if you jump in, then you're automatically taking sides. You're judging.

You're assuming that someone is in the wrong and that you now need to step in and take charge. Then they're going to shift into, "It wasn't me. I don't want to get in trouble."

Short Term-Fixes Won't Resolve Kids' Emotions. 

Dr Orlena: It's interesting because what I actually did and I can see exactly what you're saying was jump in.

A short fix thinking, "can we need to get on with the morning?" I asked my daughter if she would move down to the end of the table, there's a huge table. I'm like, "let's just separate the two of you, you're standing next to each other." I picked her because she was easy to move.

My son was already at the end of the table but obviously, she saw this as "it's your fault. You have to do this" and her response was, "I don't want to move."

Then I kind of found that I had dug myself this hole. Essentially joined in the argument when you just think I've made things worse, not better. It's an interesting practice to allow that to go on.

Meditation Increases Patience And Tolerance.

Dr Orlena: I was doing a 10-minute meditation earlier on. My daughter was being so noisy and I was thinking it's good practice to do that. To listen to her being noisy. She was only being noisy but in a small place. Thinking I still find that quite triggering. I find it sort of pokes the inside of your brain, if that makes sense and makes me think, "Oh, I have to stop that noise."

So meditating on it was useful.

Meaghan: It's very useful especially for those who are highly sensitive.  Also for those who get triggered by noise. It reminds you of being picked on or arguing when you were a child.

Figuring out what your triggers are and learning to sit with those are huge in parenting.

Be Neutral When Kids Are Arguing

Meaghan: Just pausing and realising that it's not an emergency most of the time. It's not your emergency, especially if it's your kids arguing. You don't have to get so personally involved. You're there as their coach and their guide.

When you come in with that mindset, "Do you guys need a bit of help settling this argument?" Then you're coming in more as an outsider, as a guide rather than the judge and picking sides.

Do We Have To Expect Our Kids To Be Calm All The Time?

Dr Orlena: That's fabulous advice. 

Am I being unrealistic, expecting my children to be calm and create enjoyment all the time?

Meaghan: Yes because all the time is that realistic, but you can have a general culture where that's the norm. Then you're more understanding when it's not. Let's face it. This has been been a crazy year.

A mother giving her son a piggyback ride #parenting #raisingkids #positiveparenting

How Do You Respond To Your Child's Emotional Meltdown?

Dr Orlena: My children are at school, they do go to school. So they're never home the whole time.

What I try and encourage them to do is if they just want to be noisy, go outside. The problem we have is that outside. The weather is not great at the moment. Our garden is much smaller than it used to be. So outside is not as appealing now. I'm sure that when spring comes outside will be more appealing.

So going back to that incident, and thinking about different ways of handling it. What else can we do to generally teach our children those communication skills?

My daughter had basically said to my son in probably not a very nice way, "Can you eat with your mouth closed?" He thinks that he was probably eating with his mouth closed. Because I wasn't there, I have absolutely no idea.

He isn't somebody who normally eats with his mouth open. I do notice that my oldest son is constantly asking my daughter to eat with her mouth closed. I wonder if that's where that came from. I suspect she did it in a not hugely polite way. Then he got cross and started shouting at her. She's very quick to shout back. So suddenly both of them are just screaming, "Yes! No! Yes! No! 

How To Teach Kids Handle Their Big Emotions

Dr Orlena: I always think that's like having an argument where you bang your head against a brick wall. It doesn't serve anything. You're not doing anything other than screaming at each other.

So how can I teach them that there are other ways?

Meaghan: I have two things that popped into my head.

One is sort of helping them work through it in the moment and learning communication skills.

The other one is being more proactive as a family and working through it.

Sorting Out Positive Traits And Life Skills Will Prepare Your Kids For Adult Life

Meaghan: I really encourage parents to look at the big picture with their family.

What are the character traits and life skills that you want your children to know by the time they move out.

Even make a list as a family, it's a great exercise. Make a big brainstorm map or a list.

What do we want our children to know when they move out?  Things like communication, kindness, honesty. Even life skills, like cooking and chores and all those things.

Teach Kids Bigger Life Skills Through Creative Ways 

Meaghan: When you run into these day to day problems, those are the opportunities to practice. Also, teach those bigger life skills. I just started this with my boys again. We kind of forget and jumped back on again when I need it.

I'm specifically teaching them character qualities. We looked up, what does respect mean? What does it look like? How do we show it? What are some great quotes? Or if you have faith, if there's verses or something that go along with it. We put up visual reminders.

Pick One Character Trait A Day To Teach Your Kids.

Meaghan: At the end of the day around the dinner table, I've been talking to them, "Hey our topic today is respect."

When did you show respect or did you struggle with that today? We've been working through different character traits.

Take Time To Teach Kids Despite Your Busy Schedule.

Be proactive and physically teaching your kids and putting it on everyone's mind.

Sometimes you just get busy with life, you forget about it and real-life kicks in. If you are being conscious about it, anyone listening to your podcast is purposely putting it on their mind to work through some area of their life. They've gone to the effort of listening to you. We need to do that for our kids.

Non-Violent Communication Is Essential In Dealing With Kids' Emotions

Another thing is to specifically work through teaching how to communicate and negotiate. 

If you're really wanting to look into it, there are some great ways.  It's called empathy or non-violent communication. That was originally Marshall Rosenberg who did non-violent communication.

A simplified version of that is first to observe what is the situation. Take out the blame, the shame, the name-calling. That's where they get hung up and it goes on and on for hours. They'd bring up every past injustice and because their feelings are in the way.

Observing Will Help You Understand Your Kid's Emotions.

Meaghan: If you're observing with the senses, I saw this actual thing happened, then we can sort of figure it out.

Someone was eating and was bothered by the sound of it and asked someone else to eat with their mouth closed. That's observing.

We didn't take into consideration all their feelings. Then we can talk about the feelings.

How was each person involved feel? So your daughter may have been feeling tired that day or hungry and not at her best. Usually, the chewing doesn't bother her. Maybe she was anxious or worried or distracted. Maybe she was just feeling triggered by what her other brother used to say to her.  So she found an opportunity to do that to someone else.

Feelings Are Signs Of Triggers. Help Your Kids Identify It.

Meaghan: Have everyone consider how are you actually feeling in this moment. Name it. Teach your kids some more vocabulary around feelings.

Feelings are just sort of the trigger warning light on your dashboard. It's saying there's something's up either. It's great or it's not good. Something's up. We need to look past those to the needs behind those feelings.

Decipher The Needs And Emotions Behind Your Kids' Behaviour 

Meaghan: Children's behaviour often does not match what they're actually needing.

Behaviour is communication. It's like all behaviour is communication. It doesn't always match. I would say any kid even my almost teenager does this too. They're bouncing off the walls going crazy and you could be trying to stop the behaviour.

One day I clicked and he's trying to tell me something. He's not acting himself, "What's actually bothering you, buddy?" " Oh, I'm hungry." So if you figure out what were they actually needing, then we strip away all that name-calling and the shame. Also, the blame, the tumbling and the fighting.

Looking Beyond Your Kids Behaviour Will Solve Their Actual Problems

Meaghan: We can move into actually problem-solving. If she was needing quiet and he was needing to eat, then you can say, "Hey guys, it sounds like this is what we actually need.

Does anyone have any suggestions? What can we do about it ?" Then they're like, "Oh, well I could go into my room or I could go outside or I could put a cereal box between us."

There are so many options. Then they're able to think about coming up with solutions. Then you pick one. You try it, you tweak it because that's real life. Assess after you've tried something, it works or it doesn't. You've taught them real-life skills. They're actually practising it so they can use that in different situations.

Talking About Feelings Will Reduce Tensions At Home.

Dr Orlena: I love it. I think one of the issues I have as well though, is that my children will be triggered right at that moment. So I jump in and I try and fix it all right then, and try and do all of that, thinking about how can we solve this problem. Essentially just want to scream at me or at anyone. It doesn't really matter.

I think you're absolutely right when you say their behaviour doesn't match.

One of the things I find frustrating is when they're busy screaming and shouting and fighting with me.  You just want to say, "Why don't we just have a hug and that's what you really want. Isn't it hug? but they're so busy in this fighting that they're not quite there yet. I think this is another behaviour that I see quite frequently.

So it's what should I do? Just let that run its course, and then come back to it later on and brainstorm it like at dinner time or lunchtime.

Meaghan: Yes, that's a great idea. The more your family gets used to talking about feelings, you'll find fewer incidences. 

If you're starting out like this, then you may not get through all the steps quickly. You may not get through all of it but you're trying. The goal is just to move forward in life and to try and to pick away at it.

They've got their whole lives to keep learning. Even as adults, we're learning how to handle our feelings.  Even moving past observing without blaming, they're caught up in their feelings. They haven't processed that.

Working Through Your Kids Emotions Will Prevent Future Meltdowns.

Meaghan: One of the worst things we can do is try to bypass that.  and stuff the feelings or push them aside. It's like stuffing it into a backpack. It's going to explode later at the most inconvenient time.  It will happen when you're running late for something and they have a total meltdown.

Work through those feelings on a more regular basis. Help them learn some coping skills to deal with that. So you can start to move through these a little faster. 

Remind them, "Hey, sounds like you're really frustrated. Remember this is what we do when we're frustrated." And they've had more practice with it. So it really does take time to get used to that.

What Are The Coping Skills Your Kids Need To Learn?

Meaghan: There are kinds of main coping skills.

One is calming skills. Those are the things that you do to help you calm down. We all know there's a coping skill is a strategy you use and it can be positive or negative.

What we want to do is teach them some healthy, positive ways of dealing it rather than eating or watching too much TV.  That leads to smoking and all these other things.

What Are Calming Skills That You Can Teach To Your Kids?

We want to teach them healthier options.

Calming strategies:  deep breathing, yoga. Also, getting outside, touching soft things, listening to calming music, essential oils.  Anything that is going to help relax and calm down. There are physical skills. 

Get your body moving. Get out the anger, the frustration, the wiggles. If they're in the opposite state and they're depressed or sad or unmotivated, get them energized. Get them going. Dance parties are fantastic. Getting outside, swings, trampolines, wrestling with a giant stuffy. Also, squishing Play-Doh squeezy, fidget toys, all those things.

Distraction skills. These skills are great when they're hung up on being worried or anxious.

We don't always want to distract, but sometimes we get hung up too much on a feeling and we need to move past that. So things like hobbies, puzzles colouring.  Gets your mind off, what's bothering you? Then you can think clearly just enough to re-engage the whole brain.

When a person's upset, they've flipped their lid. They come back to that fight flight or freeze mode. And so you want to re-engage the whole brain. Even just distracting momentarily enough to be like," Oh, okay. I was like, totally irrational and crazy."

Re-engage Your Child's Brain Through Simple Activity.

Dr Orlena: I've started asking them sums actually at that moment.  What's four times six.  Just in a way to try and engage that thinking part of their brain a little bit more.  Sometimes they go, "I don't care." Sometimes they tell me the answer.  I think as you get more into the habit of doing that, they get more used to me asking them. They start seeing it as "mommy helping me, rather than mommy against me." It would be more useful.

Meaghan: Exactly.

Processing skills.  Even ourselves, we can actually sit and work through with feelings. Also to not be so afraid of them and stuff them or ignore them.

Things like journaling or talking to somebody, even listening to music. You have to choose the music that meets your mood, you've put some thought into that.

Processing skills are also really important to teach them.  Do them throughout the day when your kids are calm. 

Practising New Coping Skills Will Help Them Handle Their Emotions Positively 

Brainstorm, make a list, try new things, make posters just as reminders. If that's going to be helpful to you. When I'm upset, these are some things I can do. Practice them. Remind your kids so that when they're upset, it's on their mind.

They've practised it enough that you're not throwing them more to do when they're upset.

Right Timing Is Also Important In Practicing Coping Skills

I hear from parents all the time, "I tell them to take a deep breath and then they get angry and they don't want to." It's because they're not used to that. You're bossing them around when they're upset.

Dr Orlena: Yeah, absolutely. That you have to create the habit of it. Not in the moment of anxiety and stress.

Mother and son watching the ocean on a bridge #parenting #raisingkids #positiveparenting

Coping Skills Activities Can Be Done In A Fun Way Too.

Meaghan: And make it fun too. My youngest, when he gets upset, he now asks me because we've practised so often. He's like, "I'm feeling frustration, can we do this?" And he'll come and tell me the strategies that we practice most often.

He loves blowing on my finger. I react silly and I twirl around the room. I fly across the room and smack into the wall. I pretend I'm a deflating balloon and he thinks it's so funny. He also likes wrestling with his big stuffies with me. I'm the dog like the big stuffed animal and he just jumps on it and wiggles it. Then we start tickling and having fun.

Dr Orlena: Oh, that sounds fabulous. Yes. My kids really like, sort of pretend- play with Teddy.

My son hates getting out of bed in the morning, but I then make his Teddy's bounce on him and attack him. Normally he giggles sometimes he doesn't.

Practice And Model Healthy Coping Strategies For Your Kids. 

Dr Orlena: Meaghan, thank you so much. Any last tips for us?

Meaghan: Keep practising and working on yourself.  So much of parenting involves the parent. When you can model that and be the calm in the storm, then that makes a huge difference. So all the strategies you ever are trying on your kids, practice on yourself too.

Dr Orlena: Yes. I couldn't agree with that more. I think it all starts with you and the more calm you can do yourself, absolutely the better.

So where can people find you?

Meaghan: I am at joyfulmudpuddles.com and also on all social media as joyful mud puddles.

If you visit my website, you'll see a big pop-up window that comes up and that will give you links to all my freebies. I actually have some really great posters that talk specifically about anger and feelings and coping skills. So when you sign up for my newsletter, you actually get access to my entire freebies library.

Dr Orlena: Happiness. Thank you so much. Thank you for being here as well.

Meaghan: Thank you so much.

Connect with Meaghan Jackson

Check out Meaghan's website: https://joyfulmudpuddles.com/

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Written By Dr Orlena 

Dr Orlena Kerek (MBChB from the University of Bristol, UK) trained as a pediatric doctor. She is now a family health coach. She helps busy mums who want to feel amazing by eating healthy food. So they can enjoy a healthy life, get back into their honeymoon shorts and teach their kids healthy habits.  All without thinking about it.

If you want a healthy family and healthy lifestyle without having to think about it. And you'd like help, book a 30-minute "Healthy Life Roadmap" call here.




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