Helping Our Children to Manage Their Emotions

We know how important good literacy is for our children, but have you thought about your child’s emotional literacy? It is so important for your child to be able to express how they are feeling and understand how and why certain events in their life impact how they feel, from joy to anger, anxiety to sadness and more. Teaching your child about their feelings through these six steps will help them become emotionally healthy adults.

1) Talk about emotions - do not brush their emotions away!

Parents, at times in the best interest of their children, overcompensate for their child’s emotions, rushing in to fix the problem so that the emotion goes away.

Stay present and resist the urge to make your child’s bad feelings go away. Support your child to identify and express their feelings so they are heard. When feelings are minimised or dismissed, they will often be expressed in unhealthy ways.

Just like any other skill essential to healthy social and emotional development in your child, learning to identify and cope with emotions needs to be encouraged and supported. We should not underestimate what that emotion is trying to communicate to us. The emotion you see in your child and the behaviours they present, as a result, are an indication to you of what is going on inside. Emotions are a means of communication which we must listen to in order to understand our children.

How to start talking about emotions with your child?


When reading stories or watching movies, ask your child how the character may be feeling. Besides increasing emotional vocabulary, it teaches empathy, the act of putting oneself in another’s shoes. When your child is expressing an emotion, ask them what they are thinking. You will find that the emotion is coming from the thoughts they are having at that time. If you work on the thoughts you can change the emotions.

2) Act as the role model, don’t hide your emotions!

Parents, at times in the best interest of their children, overcompensate for their child’s emotions, rushing in to fix the problem so that the emotion goes away.

Stay present and resist the urge to make your child’s bad feelings go away. Support your child to identify and express their feelings so they are heard. When feelings are minimised or dismissed, they will often be expressed in unhealthy ways.

Just like any other skill essential to healthy social and emotional development in your child, learning to identify and cope with emotions needs to be encouraged and supported. We should not underestimate what that emotion is trying to communicate to us. The emotion you see in your child and the behaviours they present, as a result, are an indication to you of what is going on inside. Emotions are a means of communication which we must listen to in order to understand our children.

3) Help them label their emotions

The best way to help your child label their emotions is through play. Pop a feelings chart up on your wall so your child can show you how they feel next time they become frustrated, angry or sad. When children (and adults too!) are overwhelmed by emotion, speaking becomes difficult. The area of the brain responsible for language gets shut down during the fight or flight response!

Having feelings chart up on your wall keeps lines of communication open for children during these times and also provides kids with a less confronting way to communicate with us how they feel.

4) Identify and talk about triggers

“Name it to Tame it” if your child is presenting with negative emotion the best way to change that is to name the emotion. For e.g if your child is angry and having a tantrum, say “I can see and hear you are angry, now can you tell me why?” You will find that the trigger is the way they were thinking about a situation or event.

Children need to be seen, heard and celebrated that is a basic human need .

As parents, we also need to talk about how we feel inside when we’re triggered. We need to Name it to Tame it too!

Once we understand their feelings, it is important for the parent to ask what happened before they had the feeling – this is the trigger. Talk to them about the trigger and why it is ok to have those feelings and that they are normal. The important part is to stay calm and help your child make sense of the feeling.

5) Teaching Calming Strategies

Once they can identify how the trigger makes them feel, then it’s time to help them manage their triggers and emotions. A great way to do this is to teach the PAUSE. Simply repeating Pause to your child is a signal to them that they need to stop and calm down. This is important if the emotion is negative because they will be in a heightened emotional state and not able to regulate until they calm down. It is vital you give them the space and time to calm.

They could take deep breaths, or listen to their favourite song.

The biggest mistake parents make is saying to a child, “There’s no reason to be sad” or “Stop crying” because that doesn’t help the fact that your kid is already sad. You’re only further constricting their emotions and telling them not to show it, rather than how to deal with it.

6) Check-in

It is important that you check in with your child, asking them how they feel and helping them to express it. It is important that we are good role models to help children develop healthy emotional regulation.

When you support your child in acquiring the skills to identify and express their feelings, you are building the foundations needed to become a successful well rounded adult.
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