Emotional First Aid

Have you ever been on an airplane and heard the flight attendant give their speech about seatbelts, emergency exits, and overall safety? The part that always stands out to me is the one that includes the oxygen mask. The same message is given by every single flight attendant, no matter the destination or airline: “Put your oxygen mask on first before helping others.

I always go back to this direction when working with parents. As we all know, parenting is a very difficult job! There are so many things to keep track of and so many questions that need to be answered. It is common that parents’ own self-care and attention seem to be placed on the backburner. This is a norm that I want to challenge. In order for children and teenagers to learn how to take care of themselves, their parents need to model this behavior.

A common event I hear about from parents that include them struggling to regulate their own emotional state is when their child or children are experiencing big emotions that they are unable to control. When children are very young, they need a lot of support and modeling from their parents. If you are a parent who finds themselves overwhelmed by their child or children’s’ big emotions, here are some steps I would suggest you consider:

1. Take a quick second to check-in with yourself. This might include doing a scan from head to toe, focusing on your thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations.

2. Take a deep breath and remind yourself that you are safe and can handle the situation.

3. Remind yourself that it is not your job to “fix” or stop your child’s emotions. It is your job to help them ride the wave.

4. If you need to take a quick time out/calm down break, do it!!

Emotional first aid is so important, not just for children and teenagers, but also for parents! Because so much of parenting is about modeling and supporting, I encourage all parents to experiment with the steps listed above. If you find yourself having a difficult time managing your own emotions in the wake of your child’s, I would encourage you to give Wild Tree Psychotherapy, LLC a call!

Written by Candace Hanson, MA, LMFT

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