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Empowering Emotionally Overwhelmed Kids

by Michelle Bersell

Michelle Bersell, M.A., M.Ed., is a psychotherapist and mother of three who has dedicated her life to the emotional empowerment of women and children. She is leading a discussion on how to empower emotionally overwhelmed kids. Read and Comment »

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Empowering Emotionally Overwhelmed Kids

by Michelle Bersell

Michelle Bersell

Michelle Bersell, M.A., M.Ed., is a psychotherapist and mother of three who is helping transform the way people think and feel across the globe and within every generation. She is leading a discussion on emotionally empowering overwhelmed kids. Read more »

School will be starting soon, and along with it you will likely see not only your teen but also your tween and, yes, even your grade school child's emotions take an upturn. It's no surprise. Kids today are more stressed, confused and emotionally overwhelmed than ever.

In my own experience, as a mother of three and psychotherapist who teaches adults and children alike in emotional empowerment, the number of kids experiencing overwhelming emotions these days is staggering. I see the impact on my own kids, and other parents, on the baseball diamond or at the grocery store, continuously ask how to handle their child, tween, or teen's emotional issues such as worry, sadness and anger.

Is this the teenage angst we all endured as a part of growing up? According to a study conducted by the American Psychological Association called Stress in America, the answer is no. Teens stress now outweighs adult stress, with teens' already high stress levels rising during the school year.

There are many factors creating emotionally overwhelmed children, including:

More pressures to succeed. For instance, in some states, if a third grader doesn't pass a reading exam, they are held back.
More blatant ways to measure and compare yourself to others. The number "likes" on a Facebook page can make or break a kid's day.
Greater concerns about their personal safety. Think metal detectors and practice "code red" drills to prepare for an armed shooter.
Bullying: 77 percent of kids are bullied mentally, verbally and physically, but only 10 percent tell their parents.

These chronically stressed kids also do not have the tools to effectively address the emotional overwhelm they are experiencing.

The beginning of a new school year is the perfect opportunity to shift out of chronic emotional stress and set the tone to live emotionally empowered. Emotionally empowered kids remain aware of who they are regardless of the emotions that arise. They are able to use feelings to effectively navigate circumstances while remaining true to themselves.

Here's how you can help your child make the shift.

Take note of emotional responses: If you notice your child is more sensitive, emotional, or short-tempered, it's a sign that your child is emotionally overwhelmed and unsure how to process their feelings in a healthy way.

Let them know their feeling(s) are normal: For instance, you may say, "I've noticed you seem short lately. I know when I get short with others, it's because I'm feeling emotionally overwhelmed and stressed. How are you feeling?" Or if they already lost control of their feelings, ask if what they are upset about is the only issue stressing them out, or if there is more.

Support a mindset shift: When kids are experiencing a negative feeling, it is because they are caught in a negative belief pattern. Help identify the fear-ridden thought or belief they are replaying in their mind and ask if their fear is absolutely true. Help them to understand what they can do instead to lessen the chances of their fear coming true. Then allow them to choose between their fear and empowered action.

Tell them, "You are right no matter what": Let your child know he or she is right no matter what they choose, because no choice is wrong. Simply explain that one choice will make them feel calmer and support them to take empowered action. The fear-filled choice, on the other hand, likely will not help the situation.

Demonstrate your support: Regardless of what choice your child makes, support it. Even if they chose fear this time, they will soon likely decide that that isn't helping. We all need time to process our feelings; they simply may need more time.

Since beginning to use the "You are right no matter what" technique with my three kids when they were in grade school, I've always shared with them compassionately that we have all chosen fear at times. (I let them know I still do this, even as an adult!) This is being human, and how we learn.

Should your child find it difficult to turn their focus away from fear on a continual basis, outside support could help them learn to process their feelings. The more you can be aware of your child's emotional overwhelm, the more you can provide them with enduring tools to deal with life's challenges.

For more support on how to help your child get out of emotional overwhelm and shift to emotional empowerment, visit

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