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how do I handle my very emotional 6 year old?

Guest jenji

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I have a 6 year old son who is highly literate and a very deep thinker. He is also extremely emotional. A good day for us is one where he only has 2-3 tearful meltdowns.

This is our second year homeschooling (he's in 1st grade this year). we only spend a couple hours each morning on school work and it is not all desk work. I have been very careful to not give him work that is too difficult for him because we suffered last year when I challenged him too much. I let him do a lot of self-directed learning as he is an avid reader and is fascinated with history and science, so we take things he's interested in and explore them in-depth. Overall, he is happy with what we do and how we do it.


Many of our meltdowns come when he realizes we are not going to give in to some demand he has. I will try to reason with him to a point, but at the same time, he is 6 and not super-logical in matters where he is very opinionated. he really struggles with letting go of things (wants to keep tags on his new clothes because he can't bear for them to be thrown away, can't stand to throw/give anything away). He can get along with other kids really well and has a blast when we get together with kids his age, but if he does something "wrong" he will burst into tears and beat himself up over it saying he's the worst kid in the world.

He is also EXTREMELY indecisive. when he has to make almost any decision (i.e. do you want to drink milk or water?) he will frequently end up crying because he feels like whichever choice he makes, he will be missing out on something else.

I have a very hard time keeping myself calm when he erupts in his emotional explosions. He tries hard to control himself and some days are better than others. I really haven't pursued much as far as researching what to do. I don't know if therapy is the answer or if just educating myself would be more/as helpful.


I am looking for recommendations for resources for me to learn how to better handle this. My husband (a black-and-white, engineer-type) especially struggles with these outbursts and realizes he just doesn't understand, but wants to know how to help our son.

What go-to-book or resource would you recommend starting with for dealing with our son's emotions. I don't know if it's because he has so many thoughts he just doesn't know how to handle them or what.

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Perhaps learning about recycling would help with getting rid of tags?  Recycle them?


Focusing on generosity in both material things and in being graceful would be a good start.  If he can be generous with his possessions or in extending grace to others, you can then help him see that it is important to do the same for himself.


For choosing beverages - I have one like that.  Time has helped, but I find I give less choices like that purely to save time and energy.  I give choices when there is time and when we can coach through the thought process.

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My oldest is just like this. Its really a daily struggle. I think coming to the understanding that she is best described as having an emotional overexcitability (as well as many other overexcitabilities) has been really helpful to be in being able to approach it compassionately.  Someone I heard speak on it said to think of Overexcitabilities as "OE" - original equipment - they are just like this - its not their fault, they are not trying to be difficult, its just their nature. Its a subtle thing I know, but just really internalizing that was important to me.


A couple books that really helped me:


The Explosive Child ( really practical too with that idea of realizing that this kid is doing the best they can, also very practical steps to avoiding meltdowns - it also made me thankful that I was addressing these issues when my child was young, as some of the examples in the book are with older teens)


Raising Your Spirited Child (really practical advice for dealing with "spirited" - the author's term which could be substituted for gifted or kids with various overexcitibilities)


I've also found the tips here really helpful: http://www.davidsongifted.org/db/Articles_id_10438.aspx


There are also lots of great articles on SENG : http://www.sengifted.org/



There are many others but these have been the most nuts and bolts practical for me so far. Good luck! I know its exhausting.  Mine is 9 and its still a struggle, but it has gotten easier. I find that the more I try to be patient and tell her things like, "I'm on your side," and give her hugs, and just be really calm and reassuring, even when she freaks out it really helps. And wine. For me, I mean. :) <hugs> 

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My DS(5) is similar in some ways. I liked parts of The Highly Sensitive Child to just help me understand. I hate seeing him really trying and struggling to get control when little tears are still squeezing out of his eyes.


We do best on avoiding emotional meltdowns when we keep to a very structured schedule, sometimes even a written and posted one. Also, we use a Melissa and Doug magnet board to help him mentally organize his mind.


As far as decisions go, we have started to employ some randomness. A coin flip or Rock Paper Scissors makes him feel like the decision is out of his hands.

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Freeing Your Child from Anxiety. Your library probably has it. http://www.amazon.com/Freeing-Your-Child-Anxiety-Practical/dp/0767914929


I would keep an eye on his anxiety level and how much "working around" you are having to do because of it. It can be a tricky thing with homeschooling and anxious or sensitive kid. Good to not make life about petty little conflicts and stuff that doesn't matter.... but you also want to be mindful that they are continuing to get opportunities to grow. If you notice yourself walking on eggshells or working around stuff so he doesn't meltdown that's something to pay attention to.

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