Smiling 4-year-old boy raises his hands in excitement. There are many ways to manage over-excitement when big events are on the horizon.

Managing Excitement: Helping Your 4-Year-Old Regulate Big Feelings

Children are naturally enthusiastic, so it’s no surprise that excitement runs high when big events like birthdays or holidays come around. While your little one’s excitement can be lovely to witness, there are times when these feelings can become too intense and lead to agitation, hyperactivity, and even disappointment. Look out for the signs of overexcitement and try out a few strategies when your child’s big feelings start to get a bit out of control.

What are the signs that a child is overexcited?

There isn’t anything wrong with being excited in and of itself. Issues arise when a child’s feelings of excitement become too intense and lead to out of control behaviors. Signs include:

  • Hyperactivity
  • Boundary pushing
  • Overreacting to situations (positive or negative)
  • Interrupting others
  • Constant talking
  • Lack of personal space with others

There’s nothing wrong with your child if he or she exhibits these behaviors, as children are in the early stages of learning how to process and manage their feelings. However, it is important to catch the behaviors as they occur and address them in order to begin your child’s understanding of self-regulation.

Strategies for an Overexcited Child

  1. Validate and Redirect - When you recognize the signs of overexcitement, bring it to your child’s attention and validate their feelings. You can say something like, “I can see that you’re really looking forward to finding out what Grandma got you. I know how exciting it is to open presents.” Then point out what they’re doing and suggest an alternative way to channel that energy. “But you’re doing a lot of yelling and jumping and we still have to wait until after dinner to do gifts. Why don’t you play in the backyard and get some of that energy out and we’ll call you when it’s time to eat?”
  2. Create a Secret Signal - Have a talk with your child about what out-of-control excited behaviors look like and let them know that it’s natural and happens to people from time to time. Then, let them come up with a secret signal that you’ll flash at them when those behaviors start to arise. This will help them to recognize the behaviors, stop, and redirect themselves. Let Storypod’sExcited Monster Craftie help out with lessons and music  designed specifically for managing this emotion, like the “Body Check-In” song!
  3. Role-Playing - Acceptable behaviors may seem obvious to us adults, but children sometimes aren’t aware that what they are doing isn’t ok. Role-playing is a great way to model both positive and negative behaviors, and it can even be an opportunity to have a few laughs. Show your child what it looks like when they get over excited by pretending to be them on Christmas morning (or whatever other trigger situation is applicable). Be lighthearted, as the point isn’t to shame them. Have them point out what they see you doing wrong. Then model it again, but this time pair it with a calming strategy. Take turns practicing. Be open to calming strategies that they may suggest on their own.
  4. Breathing - This may sound like a cliche, but don’t underestimate how helpful it is to just stop and take a breath in an intense moment. Is your child bouncing off of the walls desperately grabbing for the next gift? Take a timeout together, validate their feelings, and take a few deep breaths.

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