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Teaching Your Child to Deal with Emotions

Teaching Children Emotions


All children need to learn the vocabulary for emotions just like they need to learn the vocabulary for any other concept.  The tricky thing about emotions is they are, well emotions.  So teaching them in the heat of the moment is quite like teaching a concept like “vegetable”. 

Adults know that kids learning emotions help the child better control themselves in a variety of situations.  It is important to know that everyone needs to feel their feelings.  Feeling sad is ok.  Feeling mad is ok, as long as one’s actions do not hurt another person.  Many children tell us they don’t get mad because they are afraid that getting mad gets them in trouble.  Mad feelings are okay.  Kids need to know that it is the actions that might get them in trouble. 

As parents and caregivers what can we do?

1.        Model healthy emotional self-management by resisting our own “tantrums” such as yelling.  It is ok to take a parenting time out.  When we yell, kids learn to yell.  When we speak respectfully, kids learn to speak respectfully.  It may be also for your child to model feeling words.  You can tell them how you feel and help them label how they feel.  For example, It seems like you seem sad”. 

2.       Prioritize nurturing and connecting with your child.  Babies are soothed by their parents and caregivers when they cry.  But older children also need to connect to adults when they are struggling to make sense of their emotions.  When you notice your child having a hard time with big feelings try to connect, help them label the feeling and help your child identify ways to soothe him or herself. 

3.       Accept your child’s feelings, even when they’re inconvenient.  Empathize with your child’s feelings.  Help your child label the feeling and if your child has the language and ability help him or her label the quantity of the feeling.  Maybe your child is feeling little sad, medium sad or big sad feelings.  If your child is unable to process during the event, wait until after she or he has calmed and discuss after your child has calmed.  Your child will know that someone understands him or her.  Your child knows that she or he has support and can withstand hard feelings.  With support and guidance your child will develop resilience. 

4.       Guide your child’s behavior, but do not punish your child for having strong feelings.  You must set limits on your child’s behavior, but setting limits on emotion is not helpful to your child.  Label feelings, offer positive options for dealing with hard feelings and offer emotional support to your child. 

5.       Help your child to feel safe enough to feel his or her feelings.  “You can be angry, but you need to use gentle hands”.  Your angry child is not a bad person, but a small child who is experiencing hurt.  When kids aren’t controlling their emotions it is because at that moment, they are unable to do so.  If you stay compassionate your child will feel safe and learn to better manage emotions. 

It is important for kids to know that emotions aren’t bad.  We don’t usually have a choice about how we feel, but we can choose how we act.  We can feel our feelings and hard feelings will always feel better with time. 

If you are having difficulty helping your child deal with feelings or you feel like your child has more extreme emotions give us a call.  We can help!  651-636-4155    


1935 County Road B2 West Suite 100 Roseville, MN 55113 (651) 636-4155