12 Secrets to Teaching Your Child How to Manage Their Emotions

By Lois V. Nightingale, PhD, GoodTherapy.org Topic Expert

Giving children coping skills for their emotions is one of the most important tasks of parenting. Children lacking these tools may blame others for how they feel or demonstrate how they’re feeling in inappropriate ways. If a child has no words to verbalize their intense emotions, they’re at risk for being emotionally stunted for the rest of their lives. Emotionally arrested adults lack the ability to self-soothe when they’re upset, or to delay lashing out on an impulse.

The following are 12 tips to give your child tools for handling their uncomfortable feelings:

  1. Use feeling words when speaking to your child. “Sad” and “disappointed” are feeling words. “What were you thinking?” and “You never listen!” are not.
  2. Be more curious and less educating. Ask your child to elaborate about their uncomfortable feelings. An example of this is to say, “You seem sad, tell me about it,” not “That’s not a good reason to feel that way.” Don’t shame or scold your child about their feelings, even if your goal is to make them feel better.
  3. Don’t keep score. “Well, now you know how that feels,” “Well, if you hadn’t …” and “That happened to me and I didn’t feel that way!” are statements that teach kids their feelings are wrong. This may lead to them feeling bad about themselves and becoming defensive.
  4. Talk about negative emotions being transitory, like the weather, the tides, seasons, or the phases of the moon. Feelings will change; they have to. It’s okay to feel bad. Respect the uncomfortable feeling and remember it will change.
  5. Get a poster of emojis with the feelings written below each face. Refer to it often.
  6. Every evening, take turns talking about the pleasant and unpleasant feelings you each experienced that day. Focus on the emotions such as “proud,” “frustrated,” etc., and put less focus on the story or circumstance preceding each feeling.
  7. Talk about how you handle your...(Click here to continue reading)

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