Little People, Big Feelings

Published on November 03, 2021

Little People, Big Feelings

Does your child seem overwhelmed at times?

A health article from Melissa Reffitt, CPNP, pediatric nurse practitioner at Bronson Primary Care Partners.

Photo of angry kid.Does your child

  • Get mad easily
  • ‘Explode’ when upset
  • Hate taking a shower
  • Need to be rocked or bounced often, or bang his own head when upset
  • Hate loud noises
  • Refuse to try new foods
  • Have difficulty sleeping

It May Be Sensory Overload

The brain is an amazing thing. Childrens’ brains are growing and changing every day! The way the brain understands processes -- what is happening around them -- can sometimes make a child feel overloaded. When this happens, her physical body may have certain reactions -- such as, screaming, hitting, crying, or curling into a ball. Understanding more about Sensory Processing can help you to guide her through this tough situation.

Screaming, angry kids aren’t ‘BAD’.

How to Help

  • First, take a deep breath. Staying calm as a parent is the best first step. If your child is safe, take a few steps away from him and give both of you a moment to pause. Then, use a calm voice to name the emotion you are seeing in your child’s behavior. “I know you are upset we are done playing outside.” “I see you are angry that your brother took your train.”
  • Then offer a sensory-reducing activity. This may take some practice, as each child is unique in what works best. One of my favorite suggestions is to start with large muscle activity. Get their body moving:
    • For a toddler - pushing a laundry basket
    • For a school-aged child - jumping up & down or running a few minutes
    • For a teenager - jumping jacks or push-ups.
  • Others may prefer a calming activity. These types of activities help your child’s brain ‘deal with’ the emotion he is having. He may not have words to express himself or even know what he is feeling!
    • Getting wrapped in a blanket and gently rocked
    • Listening to calm music
    • Blowing bubbles
    • Holding a squeezy ball

Here are a few other suggestions to consider.

Discuss it with your Healthcare Provider (Pediatrician, PA, or NP)

While I have given you a few suggestions, these may not be the right solution for you and your child. If you are frustrated with frequent outbursts from your child, we are here to help. Having a check-up in the office can sort out what concerns you are having and what is the best way to help. Sometimes children benefit from working with an Occupational Therapist (OT) to help with these concerns. Your primary care provider can determine if these services would be right for you.

Photo of a group of happy kids.

Other Resources to Check Out:

About the Author

Melissa Reffitt, CPNP is a pediatric nurse practitioner at Bronson Primary Care Partners on West Main Street. She is accepting new patients now.

“Being a parent is a big job, but also an amazing journey. I am here to listen to the concerns you have about your child, assess their development and provide guidance on how to improve their health. I look forward to getting to know you and your family so we can partner together for a healthier future!”

Discover Her Care Philosophy