Skip links

4 Secrets to Managing Your Child’s Big Emotions

Manage child's emotions


Try to remember the last time someone cut you off in line or when someone broke something that was of sentimental value for you. How did you react? Were you irate and yelling at the top of your lungs or did you communicate your feelings in a clear and calm manner? The way you reacted has very much to do with your ability to control and manage your emotions. And, chances are that you learned (or didn’t learn) how to manage your emotions the right way at a young age. The great thing is that the ability to deal with feelings is a skill that can be taught and learned.

Here is how you can help your child:

Provide an emotional outlet

Children benefit from a variety of ways to express their emotions. These could include creative writing, stomping, dance and movement, or simply talking to a loved one.

Journal writing is a common and powerful method for processing feelings. Children are often drawn to journals as a safe place to share their strong emotions. If they are on the younger side, then they can draw pictures to express how they feel. There is no “right” outlet for expressing emotions, only what feels most comfortable for your child.

Feelings vs. Behavior

Once your children are able to recognize some of their big feelings, you can introduce the topic of how feelings shouldn’t dictate your behavior. For example, something might make you feel extremely angry, enough to make you want to punch a hole in the wall. But, that doesn’t mean doing it is okay. Feelings and behavior are two different things; it’s absolutely okay to feel anger but destroying property or hurting someone else is absolutely not okay. Discuss a plan together for healthy ways of expressing difficult emotions that arise and don’t expect them to get it right first time.

Teach them how it’s done

How many times do you expect your child to know just how to act and how to respond in an unfavorable situation? Most parents expect this but, haven’t really taught their children how to cope with when things get stressful. Coping skills can be best taught by modeling them yourself. As parents, when we experience emotions, we can discuss them openly with our children. Sharing difficult moments, and how we manage them, is a great start too.

You can also discuss making healthier choices or using calm down techniques such as breathing, counting backwards or meditation as skills they can use when difficult emotions arise.

Validate their feelings

As parents, we always want to jump in and help our children when they are experiencing emotions they can’t control. We are often quick to say, “There’s no reason to be sad about your toy being broken,” or “This is nothing to cry about.” This sends our kids a message that the emotions they are feeling are unacceptable or wrong. It’s extremely important to validate your child’s feelings by phrases like ‘it’s completely okay to cry or you are right to feel angry about this’. This sends a message to your child that all their feelings are valid and it’s perfectly alright to feel that way.