Q: My seven-year-old daughter will often explode if things don’t go her way, or if someone says something hurtful. After a couple of minutes, she usually gets over it, but she’s been excluded from some events, including camp, because of her behaviour. How can I help her cope?
A: Your daughter’s explosions show she’s feeling overwhelmed and out of control. She may be a sensitive child who feels wounded more easily than others, or she may have very high expectations of herself. It’s important to let her know that there is nothing wrong with feeling angry or being less than perfect. Explain that you want to help her to understand and express her anger in ways that will help her feel better.
Teach your daughter assertive and controlled ways of responding to situations where she feels picked on and frustrated — such as walking away to calm down first, and then going to talk to a trusted adult about the problem. When she gets angry, remain calm and try to comfort her — avoid reprimanding her for her angry feelings. Try to help her recognize when she is starting to feel out of control, hurt or rejected by her peers. Learning new ways to respond to these feelings will take some practice, so give her time; you can look forward to gradual improvements, not immediate change.