Mama Drama: Supporting a Five-Year-Old’s Feelings Frenzy
Dear Mama Drama:
My five-year old son seems to be very sensitive. He cries at nearly everything; if we say no, if things don’t turn out how he hoped, if he doesn’t win a game. I’m not sure how to help him deal with his feelings. I am not sure if he reacts this way at school, or just at home. I just don’t know what words to use.
Mom To A Sensitive Boy
Dear Sensitive’s Mom:
Many children struggle with being told no or things not going as expected. Five year olds are increasing their autonomy, but often experience difficulty modulating their emotions. They are very rule oriented and can have strong feelings about justice and fairness. Five year olds are also still very ego-centric and struggle to see things from the perspective of others.
I encourage you to talk with your son’s teachers to determine how he is responding to similar situations at school. He may be doing well at school and you can build on that at home. He may be struggling at school and need more support there as well.
A trick to helping your son handle being told no is to say yes as much as possible, even if it is yes later. If your son asks for a cookie and you want him to have his dinner first, you can say, “Yes, you can have one after dinner.” Once we say no, children often don’t hear anything else. If we say yes, they are able to listen to the rest of what we have to say. Saying yes honors the desire of your child and allows you to set the limits you need to set as a parent. Of course, there are times we need to say no, but finding a creative way to say it can help.
For losing games and situations not turning out as hoped for, pre-planning is a great strategy. Help your son prepare for the possibilities that may occur by having discussion beforehand. Practice with your son how he can respond if he doesn’t win a game. Give him some simple phrases to say that can assist him in handling his emotions such as, “Good game. I had fun playing.” or “I’m sad that I didn’t win, but I’m glad I got to play.”
Model being a good sport when you are playing games together. Talk through your thinking and about how you are feeling so he can develop a better understanding of how others feel.
Enlist the support of others. As you work with you son on these strategies, inform his teachers, coaches, and family members of the strategies you are using so they can support him as well.
How we think about situations in our lives impacts how we feel about them. Helping your son create positive thoughts related to difficult situations will help him to manage both his thinking and his feelings in ways that lead to perseverance and success.
If you still have concerns after trying these strategies, it may be helpful to seek additional mental health support.
Motherhood is an amazing journey that can have its share of Mama Drama. The Mama Drama column runs on Fridays with everyday mothering questions from readers and answers providing strategies to tackle these daily challenges. Send your questions and challenges to Lisa@milehighmamas.com, and your Mama Drama could be in next week’s column! Lisa is also available for private consultations. All emails and identifying information will remain confidential. Read more of Lisa’s parenting perspective at her Laughing Yoga Mama blog.