Have you heard of the butterfly effect? It’s the idea that small actions can have big consequences. Its name comes from the concept that the flap of a butterfly’s wings in one part of the world could ultimately cause a hurricane in another part of the world because even small actions can have a ripple effect that builds over time. In the movie The Butterfly Effect, Ashton Kutcher plays a man who travels back in time to make tiny changes hoping to alter his present but each time keeps waking to terrible results.
I’m not a science-fiction fan nor do I love horror films. What I do love is science and helping parents figure out the small changes they can make now that will actually lead to better outcomes (none of them, for better or worse, involving Ashton Kutcher). One of my favourite small changes is finding your child’s “pressure release valve”. The number 1 reason parents consult with me is to help their child with really big emotions. Whether it is a preschooler’s meltdown, or a tween’s explosion after a limit was set, managing intense feelings is a huge
challenge that often leaves us drained and feeling helpless. If we can find ways to “let off steam” using the pressure release valve, we can massively reduce how intense these emotions are and how often these explosions happen.
We need to build in regular opportunities for stress release throughout the week
Here are some ideas to get you started:
Physical exercise- whether it’s running, playing basketball in the driveway or natural, playful movement outdoors, it all helps release the steam
Quality connection time with a parent
Rough-and-tumble play with a caregiver which gives the added bonus of connection ~
Holding smaller boundaries at times when you know it may elicit a response but you’re ready to show up with empathy and compassion and hopefully help them shift that anger to tears And here’s the thing: this isn’t just some feel-good parenting tip. It’s backed by science! When children are stressed, their brains release cortisol, which can lead to a fight-or-flight response. Stress is particularly challenging for kids because their brains are still developing. When they experience stress, their bodies release cortisol just like adults, but their developing brains may struggle to regulate those cortisol levels. This can lead to a buildup of stress and tension, which can eventually lead to a meltdown. By building in opportunities for stress release, you’re helping regulate their cortisol levels and keep them in a calm, balanced state.
Try to experiment with adding these to your daily routine.
Let me know what works best for your child!