Our 9-year-old daughter has always been a sensitive child but lately she has become an overly emotional child. Almost anything that is said to her now is followed by floods of tears and sometimes angry outbursts.
There are a myriad reasons why children respond in this overly emotional manner and it’s sometimes tricky for parents to pinpoint the source. Is it simply her being over dramatic as children of this age sometimes can be, or does the problem run far deeper and is more complex? Will she grow out of it, or is this the start of something that could get worse? I’m sure these are all questions that you’ve been asking yourself, but how do you go about finding the answers?
Two approaches spring to mind — observation and communication. I often ask parents I work with to keep a behaviour diary. This involves a period of standing back and observing what is going on. It’s a great way to create a whole picture and can be so helpful in gaining a sense of objectivity about a situation that is really testing your patience. As parents we often get caught up in the moment and we all know that kids sometimes seem to have this innate ability to know what buttons to press when it comes to getting our attention. Keeping a diary for a while and noting down exactly when these outbursts occur and what provokes them can help you to identify patterns and triggers.
It’s not just about the child either. Noting down how you respond (in terms of behaviour and emotions) can also reveal a great deal in terms of how these outbursts are playing out. Parents and children often get stuck in patterns of behaviour and sometimes just changing how you respond in difficult or confrontational situations can help to transform the child’s behaviour.
Finding out how things are going at school, how things are going in her friendship groups and finding out whether anything has happened to unsettle her is going to be important when getting to the bottom of what’s going on. What seems like a minor issue to adults can often cause major upset to a child, so this is where communication is going to be paramount. The temptation is often to try and talk in the throes of confrontation or when she’s crying — avoid this as it’s not the best time. Instead chat to her when she’s calm and seems relaxed.
Try to keep it light and positive — but point out that you’ve noticed she sometimes seems to get very upset and you wanted to understand why. You don’t mention any sibling, but if she does have siblings who are younger, it might be worth considering if her feelings are connected to this. Nine can be a difficult age — in-between the innocence of early childhood and the growing independence of the teenage years and this can lead to a real sense of insecurity in some children.
Dissolving into frequent tears at this age may also be a sign that her physical maturity is beginning to outstrip her emotional maturity. It could be the case that she hasn’t quite developed the skills to regulate her emotions and you can help her with this.
Also read: How to deal with a lying child
Once you’ve discovered the feelings behind what triggers the tears, help her to plan new responses. Teach her how to stay calm and give her a strategy to cope with potential upsets that you can foresee might happen. Some children need to be taught these things explicitly and doing so will build her confidence and resilience and also strengthen the bond between you.
Russell Hemmings is a Dubai-based lifecoach and hypnotherapist. Got a problem? Our fantastic panel of renowned experts is available to answer all your questions related to fashion, well-being, nutrition, finance and hypnotherapy. Email your queries to firstname.lastname@example.org.