A journey of emotional regulation and big little feelings in toddlers

Navigating the phase of emotions with young children can be a challenging phase for new parents. It definitely was for me as a sensitive mama to big emotions anyway.

The big emotions phase

The start of our big emotions phase came just after a bronchitis flare up my son had. Cue an already overwhelmed, exhausted mama from a number of sleep nights plus a visit to hospital to keep check on his breathing. Of course our little man was just as exhausted and overwhelmed too from all that he’d been through.

It was an intense week and honestly when these meltdowns started happening I just melted down too as I wasn’t sure how to handle it. I was suddenly faced with a decision to make. How did I want to support my son through this process of emotional regulation? How could I do that for myself so that I didn’t get so overwhelmed when he had a melt down?

You gotta give it to kids, they really do express AND move through their emotions. If they’re feeling angry they stomp their feet and shout to really express it. We can learn a thing or two from our little ones. I wonder what it would be like if the norm for us as adults was when we felt frustrated or mad we would stop, shout “im feeling frustrated”, stamp our feet, shake it out and move through it and carry on with our day. I wonder how much easier life would be without carrying around all that tension because we’d actually acknowledge and voice how we are feeling in the moment.

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So with this big learning curve I took to listening to audiobooks recently to sharpen my approach to big emotions in little people. Being a mother has highlighted to me just how sensitive I am. One way I support myself in handling situations is to cultivate tools and approaches to help me understand things better. It helps me to stay calm and collected (as much as possible) to not hit burnout and emotional overwhelm, as much.

You won’t always get it right


With the 24 hour relentlessness of parenting there WILL be times where you hit your patience limit. Your ability to remain calm and neutral when faced with a big emotional outburst by your kids will sway from balance.

It’s a given. 

I’m noticing how the early phase of motherhood was physical in terms of breast-feeding, baby wearing and contact naps. It continues to be physically demanding as they start to find their feet and movement.

Then comes the talking phase where they start to be able to interact even more so with you as well as stretching their independence muscles.The emotional phase comes as they figure out their feelings. It’s quite an up and down phase to be in and definitely took me by surprise being mrs sensitive.

It can be at anything and everything that can trigger our little people to hit emotional overwhelm. They wanted peanut butter on their toast, not jam, even though they asked for it. They want their toast cut into squares, not triangles. Some of the meltdowns will come at the most bonkers of things but, it means a lot to them hence their reactions.

When tiredness kicks in for them it easily triggers more big outbursts for them to deal with too.

I’m not going to lie, I’ve struggled with mama rage at times where I have been touched out, tired, no patience and struggling to get one minute for myself as tiny hands request another snack, another book, another game. 

The biggest mirror you’ll have held up to yourself is by the your kids

I am fascinated by watching a little person grow into themselves and learn to handle their emotions. I can see just how integral it is for me to model things in my behavior and communication to support them in learning to regulate themselves. The biggest mirror I have ever had held to me that’s for sure. There is an importance in modeling healthy management of emotions (As much as possible) but also open and honest communication about times we’re not handling things well either. Sometimes those are our biggest moments of teaching. When we have snapped back at our kids we have a chance to stop, pause and communicate what’s moving for us (in as little words as possible so they understand) and explain how we are going to move back into a space of calm again.

You’re not going to get it right every time and as much as I’d like to say I practice gentle parenting I do fall short. Hence saying I practice gentle parenting, because that’s what I am doing, practicing. 

I trial and error things as I go to see what works for our son. I change my tone of voice or the way I phrase things. At the moment he’s going through a mummy phase (he’s totally a mummy’s boy) and it’s been a lot for me to handle. Sometimes I just need him to let his dad put him to sleep.

The Happy Tank concept- A spur of the moment way to explain that its important for self care

My spur of the moment new approach to feeling touched out and needing him to go to dad a bit more was to introduce the concept of filling our happy tanks up when we are feeling low, sad, frustrated or angry. As he’s starting to understand things more I am able to give examples of when he’s been feeling sad and needed “his happy tank filling up” so I can explain that mummy and daddy also need time to fill their happy tanks up.

It worked, and he let daddy put him to bed so mama could have a moment’s breathing space. phew!

Motherhood has shown me just how important self care, introspection and cultivating open and vulnerable communication is. Especially as we move through this emotional development with our gorgeous and very very busy boy.

I hope that something has landed for you in

Big love, 

Jules 

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