Most of us learned as children that our negative feelings were in some way unacceptable, or even dangerous. As a result, when our own child has a meltdown our inner child gets triggered. We feel a sense of panic and react with fight, flight or freeze. It’s the very same panic that caused our own parents to rage, isolate or give up.
While parenting is no walk in the park, children have the difficult task of learning to ride their wild emotions with grace. Our ability to stay calm during the storm helps them develop the neural pathways to self-soothe when activated. But most of us find it tough to stay empathic when our child starts to lose it.
So what can we do to address our own fear of emotional dysregulation? First and foremost, take a deep breath and acknowledge your feelings. Remind yourself that emotional expression is a good thing and try to tolerate the big feelings without taking immediate action. You’re just naming and breathing.
Emotional regulation is a practice. You’re being asked to reflect and respond against something that feels natural to the parasympathetic nervous system. That’s why the bulk of the work is learning to titrate emotions. When all else fails and you’re feeling overwhelmed, ask yourself what matters most and try to choose love every time.