Cart 0
No products in the cart.

Helping Your Child Manage Big Emotions

  • Dr. Allie and Miss Barbara
  • Parenting
  • No Comments

Why do our little ones have such big reactions?

Self-regulation skills develop over time, but feelings come right away! Our little ones feel upset but are not yet equipped with several things needed to modulate that emotion. This doesn’t just apply when children are sad, frustrated, or angry…sometimes children show big positive emotions such as overexcitement.

We can help our little ones learn to self-regulate! Keep reading to learn ways to help your child manage big emotions!

Start with Emotion Identification

Helping your child identify their emotion is the first step to being able to modulate their emotion. We can help our children do this in several ways:

Label the Emotion for Your Child

This can be simple. You see your little one is frustrated because they cannot complete a puzzle there are working on. Gently say, “I see you are feeling frustrated by this puzzle, can I help you?” No lengthy explanation necessary. Just a quick moment to name and validate what your little one is feeling. Acknowledging their feeling is also connecting with your child. Get on their level (for example, kneel next to them), touch your child (hold their hand or touch their shoulder), and let your little one know you hear them, see them, and understand them.

Use Feeling Faces

Sometimes it is easier not to show your child the emotion rather than telling them. Often times, when children are upset, talking can be overwhelming. Using a feeling faces chart (we like this one) is an easy way to help your child understand how they are feeling. Simply show the chart to your child and ask, “How are you feeling?” or “Are you feeling frustrated?” Use this chart when your child is not showing big emotions to practice!

Label Your Own Emotions

Talking about your own experience is a powerful tool as our children learn from our modeling. If you are feeling happy, say it! If you are feeling overwhelmed, let them know! Add in why you are feeling that way. Bonus points if you talk about what you might do to help yourself feel better or self-regulate. For example, “I am so excited for the birthday party tonight I want to scream and jump up and down, but instead I am going to take a deep breath and make a card to go with my gift.”

Talk About Emotions Using Books

When reading, take a minute and pause to ask your child how they think the character might be feeling. This is a powerful way to help your child identify emotions when they are in a relaxed state, and help begin to develop empathy!

Use a Thermometer

…and not the digital ones we use today! Think about big emotions as a thermometer. Your little one might start out “cool” or at a low temperature, and then something (or several things) trigger them to start “heating up” until they are boiling hot! Use an image of a thermometer to help your child identify when they are “heating up” so they can begin to “cool down.”

Laying a Foundation for Self-Regulation

Offer Choices

When your child is showing a big emotion, it can be helpful to narrow down the options for them. You can offer them two choices of what they might do next. This can be a coping strategy they are practicing (for example, taking a deep breath) or a redirection (“You can either help me clean up the blocks or pick up the balls.”) Often times children feel out of control when they experience a big emotion, and offering a choice gives them some control back over the situation.

Suggest a Strategy or Solution

Sometimes a choice is too much for a child, so you might suggest one strategy or solution for them. For some of our favorite coping strategies, check out our blog on tantrums by clicking here. 

Ask Questions

For older children, it can be helpful to walk through a problem-solving exercise with them. Start with labeling their emotion, “You are frustrated because your brother is playing with the toy you want.” Then, ask them how they might solve this problem. You can start by offering some solutions, but gradually and over time, let your child offer the solutions!

Talk About What Happened

After your child has calmed down, take a brief moment to talk about what happened and what your child might do next time to avoid becoming “boiling hot.” Keep this short, so the emphasis stays on moving forward and learning from the big emotion.

All of these big emotions are actually a great opportunity for us as parents to help our children learn how to regulate and cope with feelings they will experience throughout their lives. It is normal for young children (toddler age) to show big emotions; however, reactions out of proportion to the event should get better as children get older and learn better self-regulation skills. If you feel as though your child is having more trouble than you might expect for their age, contact a local psychologist for a consultation. A psychologist can tailor treatment to the needs of your child and your family to help improve emotion regulation skills.

And remember…there is no perfect solution or magic wand. Keep showing up for your child by validating, acknowledging, and modeling emotion identification and regulation and they will follow your lead…you’ve got this parents!

Author: Dr. Allie and Miss Barbara

Leave a Reply

This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this website, you agree to their use.