In a previous post, I wrote about intense kids and the importance of understanding that intensity is part of a child’s CoreSelf, an inborn temperament trait. Intense children are high-maintenance children. They feel their feelings strongly, whether it’s happiness and joy or anger and disappointment. As an intense person myself, I can tell you that one never, ever has to wonder what we are feeling. Our default mode is to wear our feelings on our sleeve. Can you relate?
It’s easy to get frustrated with intense kids. If you are low intensity, and just let things roll off your back, and your child takes everything to heart, it’s super easy to accuse them of “making a big deal about everything,” which does nothing to help your child manage his intensity. And it’s your job to help your child manage their inborn temperament traits so they can be effective in the world.
Here are 3 Helpful Things to Say to Your Intense Child
- “I appreciate that you feel your feelings really strongly…”
Instead of telling him not to make a big deal out of things, acknowledge that things FEEL LIKE A BIG DEAL to your child. Each and every time. This is leading with acceptance. Accept your child’s intensity and appreciate that this is who and how he is. The warm connection that is fostered by your acceptance makes your child receptive to your guidance in how to deal with their strong feelings. Compare that to feeling shut down and criticized when you’re told to not make a big deal out of stuff.
- “It’s Ok to feel angry.”
Low intensity folks sometimes don’t understand why high intensity folks get angry as often as they do. Is it because they themselves don’t get angry or because they aren’t in touch with what their anger feels like? Regardless of why, parents of intense kids need to understand that anger is a natural human emotion and it won’t go away by telling someone they shouldn’t be angry. By acknowledging your child’s anger, even when it is directed at you, you help your child process it and let it go. She will learn that it’s OK to get angry, and that there are appropriate ways of expressing that anger.
- “I am here with you.”
When intense kids melt down, it’s tempting to isolate them. “You need to go to your room until you have calmed down” is a technique I used with my kids and I would do it differently if I could do it over again. We’ve learned so much about the human brain over the last 20 years, and we know that when someone is really angry, their amygdala takes over and hijacks the rest of the brain. With the amygdala in charge, it’s fight or flight mode, and no amount of reasoning will be effective and calming. The way to calm an angry child is through connection, which helps the higher functioning parts of the brain regain control. Isolating a child who is in meltdown mode is counterproductive. That said, there is no question that it is a challenge to stay present and connected when a child is melting down, and I’ll address those challenges in a future post.
Which of these suggestions is most helpful to you? Please share your experiences with your intense child in the comments. The suggestions from other parents are a great resource, and help us feel less alone!