Five Ways to Help Your Child Handle Emotions

mother supporting her child with a hug as the child processes their emotions

Five Ways to Help Your Child Handle Emotions

Research shows that children who have received emotion coaching helping children recognize emotions and develop self-regulation skills — from their parents are less likely to have behavioral disorders and they have higher academic achievement later in life. Emotion coaching provides your child with an avenue to feel and express their feelings in a way that promotes awareness and self-control.  

Here is an overview of five things you can do to help your child manage their emotions: 

  1. Encourage feelings. It’s important to allow yourself and your child to express feelings freely. Tell your little one that ALL feelings are okay and there is no need to ever criticize or judge yourself for having any emotion. Practice observing and tuning in to how your child expresses feelings. Notice how their feelings precede their behavior. 
  2. Look for opportunities to connect. When your child throws a tantrum, consider it an opportunity to connect with your child and be their emotion coach. Encourage your preschooler to notice and express their feelings in words. Offer compassionate reflection and gentle guidance as soon as you recognize your child getting angry, frustrated or sad. It’s not about “fixing” your child’s negative emotions, but rather, letting them know it is normal to have feelings and that you understand. Understanding your child’s emotions can help you teach them how to handle those emotions positively. 
  3. Learn to really listen. Listen with your eyes, your posture and your whole body. We expect children to learn how to listen but sometimes we don’t show them that same consideration. Show your child that you notice they’re having some feelings. Encourage them to share with you what they are feeling and remind them all their feelings are okay. Create a space of listening and acceptance for your child to express verbally or non-verbally whatever emotions they are experiencing. 
  4. Reflect and create a list of feeling words. Help your child develop a vocabulary of feeling words to identify and express their emotions verbally. Avoid telling your child to “stop crying.” Instead, you might say, “I can see you are feeling sad and frustrated right now. I understand you wanted to wear your sandals and I said it’s too cold to wear sandals. That really made you feel sad and frustrated, didn’t it?” This helps your child understand how to identify what they feel and allows them to feel heard and understood. 
  5. Seek solutions together. Be proactive. When your child is heading into a situation where they are likely to become frustrated, help prepare them. For example, you might say, “We have to go shoe shopping for your brother today. It might take a while and I know sometimes you feel frustrated when we go shopping. I hope you will tell me when you start to feel frustrated and maybe I can help you through it.” 

There is a reason for all behavior. Practice being a feelings detective, knowing that when your child has acting-out behavior, it’s a sign they are having some big emotions and don’t know how to express or manage those feelings. You can always invite your child to be part of the solution when they show acting-out behaviors. For example, if your child throws a book across the room when they are angry, you might say, “I can see you are feeling so angry that you threw your book. Books are not for throwing. Let’s think together of ideas for other things you can do instead when you feel angry.” Look for the times your child behaves positively and reinforce that behavior by reflecting with delight. Set clear, firm limits when needed, and be sure they know that negative consequences are due to their behavior and not their feelings. 

Find a Primrose School Near You

Inspire a lifelong love of learning. Contact your local Primrose to schedule a tour.

Find A School