When emotions get the better of you…

Early childhood High school Primary school Parental growth Practical parenting

You’re home after a long day at work. You’re tired, but there’s dinner to prepare, then tomorrow’s school lunches to pack, the kitchen to tidy, and folding to finish. And there’s a lack of helping hands to lessen the load. You collect odd socks and toys on the way to the bathroom then stumble over a growing pile of wet towels. You clench your teeth and feel the frustration build within you—are you the only person in the house who puts things away?

But you stop, take a deep breath, then another, and you think about how you want the rest of your evening to be. Instead of impulsively reacting, you choose your next response. You wait until dinner when you have your children’s attention and you explain how you that situation made you feel, how your body experienced frustration, and explain how your children can help you around the house.

Without realising it, you have successfully completed the empowering practice of self-regulation. A process we follow to manage big emotions—anger, frustration, nervousness—and to control our behaviour in response. Self-regulation is not a skill we’re born with; it’s one we gradually master throughout our formative years by observing the behaviour of the adults around us. It’s important for children to see their parents experience these emotions; it shows them you are human. But it’s equally as important for children to observe appropriate behaviours in response to those emotions.

But let’s be real. Sometimes it can be challenging to regulate our emotions, especially when we are tired or distracted. When it doesn’t go right, be easy on yourself, recognise your response, and try your best to do it differently next time. Identifying stressful situations and implementing simple strategies can help you manage your emotions in those moments:

  • Stop, reset, respond—If you feel yourself becoming frustrated or angry, try to reset before you react. A few slow, deep breaths can reduce the intensity of the feeling. Download the STOP, RESET, RESPOND postcard and stick it on the fridge. This will act as a reminder for you and introduces the concept to your children as well. 
  • Try to gain some perspective—Is a pile of wet towels on the floor worth losing your temper over when compared with other things going on in the world?
  • Look for opportunities to reduce stress—Prepare school bags the night before to help in the morning rush, put a chores roster in place to encourage children to help at home, recognise the times you are usually tired and be extra aware of your heightened emotions.

We are good at checking in with others, but remember to regularly check in with yourself too. If the frustration of odd socks in the hallway becomes consuming, make sure you reach out to a trusted friend to talk about how you are feeling or seek professional help if you need to. Parentline is always available for a chat, or you can find a professional service nearby through the oneplace directory.

Last Updated: 28 September 2021