Help children manage their emotions

One problem we observe quite often is that parents do not accept their children’s feelings. (e.g., “You think you feel that way.”, “There’s no need to be sad.”, “Come on, don’t cry.” )

The constant rejection of emotions confuses the child and leads him to aggression and outburst. It also does not allow him to contact his emotional world and become familiar with his feelings.

The parents’ attitude in their conversations with children leads to endless controversies and undermines children’s confidence in their perceptual capacity regarding the feelings they experience. That’s why parents need to try to put themselves in the children’s shoes and see things from their point of view.

In our daily conciliation and interaction with people around us, we try to help them in different ways:

Let’s look at an example: Suppose there was an incident of disagreement in the workplace between the employee and the employer over specific tasks that were not finished by the employee. When talking to a friend about the incident, we may hear the following response versions:

1. Denial of emotions: “There is no reason to feel such a disturbance. Obviously, you’re tired, and you’ve overestimated the incident. Things couldn’t have been as bad as you describe them.”
2. Philosophical response: “Look, that’s life. It doesn’t always work out the way we want. You have to learn to adapt to the circumstances.”
3. Admonition: “Do you know what I propose? Tomorrow morning, you’re going to your employer’s office and say, ‘Look, I was wrong.’ “Then you will lay down and finish the job you left today, undisturbed, without getting involved in other tasks that will make you forget this mission again.”
4. Questions: “What was it, anyway, these emergencies that made you forget your employer’s requests?” “Well, didn’t you imagine he’d be furious if you didn’t respond directly to his demands?”
5. Defending the other person: “I fully understand your employer’s reaction. Obviously, the man is under unbearable pressure. Well, it’s a good thing these explosions aren’t more frequent.”
6. Pity: “My poor man! What a bad thing that happened to you! I’m so sad; I’m going to cry.”
7. Amateur psychoanalysis: “Did it ever occur to you that the agitation you feel is because your employer represents for you the father figure? It seems like, when you were a kid, you were worried about letting your dad down. So, when the boss stirred you, the fears of paternal rejection emerged from the subconscious. Have you thought about this?”
8. Compassion (attempt to harmonize with each other’s feelings): “Wow, you’ve had a tough time! It’s not easy to be attacked like that, especially in front of others, and when you’ve been killed at work all day! I can imagine your sadness! It was natural to get so upset!”

The first seven types of reactions usually dishearten our interlocutor and prevent him from expressing his feelings. However, suppose someone can listen carefully, recognize his problem and offers him the opportunity to externalize his negative feelings, then the agitation decrease. In that case, the confusion is alleviated, and the person feels able to manage the emotions and the problem he faces.

When communicating with our children, the ways of responding are the same. Children are always helped by a person who can hear them or by a compassionate reaction.

So how do we help children manage their emotions?

Here are some emotion management techniques:

1. Instead of listening with lukewarmness, be completely devoted. It is heartbreaking to express your feelings to someone who is lukewarm about what you say. But it is easier to talk about your problems to a parent who shows undivided attention. He does not even need to speak or advise. Usually, a tacit understanding is enough to ease the child’s grief.
2. Instead of questions and admonishes, recognize emotions with one-word reactions: “Oh!”, “Yes!”, “I understand!”. The child cannot make constructive reflections when he receives a storm of questions, criticisms, or admonishes; simple words or interjections can help the child clarify the situation. When accompanied by a friendly and affectionate attitude, they encourage the child to explore his thoughts and feelings, finding a solution to the problem he is facing.
3. Instead of renouncing emotion, give a name to the feeling: “How sad!” Whenever we urge a child to repel a negative emotion, what we succeed in is intensify his agitation; but when we describe the child’s feelings, he is relieved because he realizes that there is someone who understands him.
4. Instead of questions and rationalities, offer what you can’t provide with imagination: “Oh, even if I could make your banana ripen right now for you!” When children want something and can’t have it, adults use rational arguments to support the inability to meet the need; however, attempts at rationalization usually exacerbate protests. Sometimes, the awareness that they feel our pain makes the emotions bearable.

However, more important than the words we use is the attitude we adopt. If the attitude is not compassionate and understanding, whatever we say will be wasted, as the child will see our words as manipulative attempts.

Let’s look at some examples of effective management of children’s emotions:

Child: The driver yelled at me, and all the kids on the bus laughed.
Parent: You must have felt terrible embarrassment.

Child: A few drizzles were thrown, and immediately the teacher said the excursion was canceled. She’s such a jerk.
Parent: I imagine your disappointment.

Such statements usually relieve children and offer them the much-needed way out of the burden of problems. You do not need to propose solutions directly to address the issues. Instead of advising, continue the work of accepting and mirroring children’s emotions.

Tips for better management of children’s emotions:

• It is not necessary for every conciliation with your children to express a connection, as many conversations have the character of a simple conversation. Understanding is needed when the child feels the need to externalize their emotions. Also, these techniques should be applied when they manifest negative emotions only.
• Don’t ask the kid, “Why do you feel that way?” For many children, the cause of the problem only exacerbates the confusion because they have to analyze the situation and provide a thorough interpretation.
• You don’t have to align yourself with children’s feelings as long as you show that you understand and accept their feelings.
• The child does not believe the statement used by the parents: “I understand how you feel. » But if you try to be more specific (“The first day of school is a little scary, with so many new things you have to see and learn.”), the child will realize that you understand it.
• If you miss out on recognizing an emotion, then the child himself will bring you back to reality.
• If you are agitated with comments like “you’re bad,” “I hate you,” you can share it with your child.
• Resorting to physical activities promotes, in some cases, the mitigation of the child’s agitation or the reduction of painful feelings. Many angry children can calm down by hitting pillows, pounding cardboard, play with playdoh, roaring, or throwing small arrows at targets. However, the most satisfying for adults and the most enjoyable for children is the painting depiction of controversial emotions.
• The tolerance of this approach is limited to the field of acceptance of the child’s feelings. The universal acceptance of his feelings will not create the impression that all his actions without exception are forgivable; on the contrary, acceptance increases the chances of complying with the restrictions we impose on him.
• You do not need to give advice or offer immediate solutions, as you deprive children of the experience of friction with the problem.

… and some recommendations:

• Children usually react when they hear the parent repeat the same words they have used. They would probably prefer some less ‘parrot’ comments as a sign of a response to their feelings.
• Some kids prefer not to talk at all when they’re agitated. For these, the mere presence of dad or mom offers sufficient relief.
• Some children get upset when they experience a correct but lukewarm response from the parent when externalizing strong feelings.
• Equally, the parent’s overreaction to the child’s feeling is misplaced.
• Children do not like their parents repeating characterizations that they use to describe themselves.

You will see how over time, you will tell what is beneficial to your child and what is not. With the practical application, you will gradually discover what bothers it and what relieves it; The ultimate criterion is your sensitivity.


Faber, A., Mazlish, E., (1999). How to talk so kids will listen and listen so kids will talk, Collins