How to Help Your Emotional Child
As parents, we are right there with our children in their joy and happiness, but also in their sadness, loss, and agony. Here’s what we can do to truly assist our children in dealing with difficult emotions.
I seem to come across the phrases “bad feelings” and “good feelings” everywhere I go, whether online or in person. And I believe that changing this definition is the first step toward actually doing something different.
This post may contain affiliate links. Full disclosure here.
Want to learn how to get your kids to listen without nagging, yelling or losing control?
–>check out this free parenting class<–
How to Help Your Emotional Child
Teach Your Child About Feelings
There are both positive and negative emotions. Instead of judgment and all conceivable termination attempts, all feelings need to be seen and heard, accepted and embraced with sincere curiosity, empathy, and compassion. When we describe something as “negative,” our natural instinct is to strive to “improve” it. As humans, we are wired in this way. However, most of the time, the work of genuinely “fixing” is beyond our capabilities. Furthermore, nothing is truly broken.
It’s critical for your youngster to be able to understand and articulate their emotions.
Begin teaching children about emotions so that they understand that even things that appear amorphous or overwhelming have a name.
“You seem unhappy right now,” or “I can tell you’re mad,” say. Say something like, “I’m sorry we won’t be able to visit Grandma today,” or “I’m astonished those boys were being so cruel today.”
You can also start a discourse about sentiments by discussing characters from literature or television shows. Ask questions such as, “How do you suppose this character feels?” every now and then. Your child’s ability to label emotions will increase with practice.
Emotional awareness can assist children in being psychologically strong, even while they are experiencing intense emotions.
Separate Feelings From Behaviours
It’s also crucial for kids to learn how to communicate their feelings in a socially acceptable way. It’s not acceptable to scream loudly in the midst of a grocery shop or throw a temper tantrum at school, for example.
Tell them that they can feel any emotion they desire and that it’s okay to be angry or terrified. Make it obvious, however, that kids have a choice in how they react to those unpleasant feelings.
They have every right to be angry with someone, but that does not give them the right to hit them. Similarly, just because the store is out of their favorite ice cream doesn’t mean they should roll around on the floor weeping and bothering others.
Emotions can be disciplined, but not conduct. Say something like, “You’re going to time-out because you struck your brother,” or “You’re going to lose this toy for the rest of the day because you’re shouting and it’s hurting my ears.”
Provide a Safe Place for the Child to Express Themselves
We may be tempted to distract or redirect our children away from their discomfort when they are experiencing anger, sadness, or other strong emotions. However, this isn’t always the ideal approach. Spending time with your children to support their experiences with their emotions, according to attachment research—the unique loving tie between children and their caregivers—is a critical aspect of creating secure and loving relationships.
Inadvertently, parents may diminish a child’s feelings. “Stop getting so worked up. It’s not a big deal” instils in your child the belief that their sentiments are incorrect. Feelings are fine, even if they appear to be out of proportion.
Put a name to it, whether you think they’re angry, sad, annoyed, ashamed, or disappointed. Then, be empathic and indicate that you understand how they feel.
While expressing “I know you’re mad because we’re not going to the park today” demonstrates that you understand their frustration, it may come across as harsh.
Instead, say something like, “I realize you’re disappointed we’re not going to the park today.” When I don’t get to do the things I want to do, I get irritated.” That extra element communicates to your child that everyone experiences such emotions at some point in their lives, even if they aren’t as often or severe as they are for you.
At the same time, teach your child that emotions come and go, and that the way they feel right now won’t last forever—or even a few minutes.
Use Positive Affirmations and Encouragement
It’s more crucial than ever to encourage your child’s emotional development. The good news is that parents do not need to be specialists in order to help their children develop the social-emotional skills they require to succeed. In truth, there are a plethora of tools that are both easily available and simple to teach. Affirmations are one such skill that children can learn and use. Learn how to empower your child, raise their self-confidence, and encourage resiliency by developing a healthy habit of positive self-talk and utilizing affirmations on a daily basis.
It’s common to have trouble deciding how to respond to extremely emotional children. It’s natural to be perplexed or overwhelmed by it all.
Even if you don’t understand why your child feels the way they do, letting them know that you understand they’re going through some emotions—and that it’s OK—can help.
Feeling “seen” and welcomed can greatly assist children in learning to recognize, understand, and cope with what they are going through.
Some may label extremely sensitive children as “wimps” or believe that their sensitivity can be improved, which is not only unpleasant but also false. Crying, becoming enraged, and becoming frustrated are neither negative emotions or marks of weakness.
Everyone has a varied temperament, and your child’s sensitivity is one of them.
Ascertain that your youngster understands that you accept him or her for who they are.
Teach Emotion Regulation
The ability to regulate huge emotions is mostly based on your child’s age and development when it comes to emotion regulation. A child’s ability to stop behavior is normally minimal before the age of 24 months, and occasionally even before the age of 36 months.
However, this does not exclude you from beginning to educate children on how to manage their emotions. Many children have the skills necessary to begin learning how to regulate their emotions by the time they enter preschool.
Here are some useful skills to teach your child to assist him or her learn to manage his or her emotions:
- Deep breathing should be practised. Teach your child to breathe slowly and quietly through their nose before exhaling through their lips. (To master this, tell them to “smell a flower, then blow up a balloon.”) You can do this with them a few times when they’re upset, but encourage them to use it on their own when they need to.
- To de-stress, count to ten. Teach your child to count to divert themselves from distressing thoughts. Counting ceiling tiles, counting to ten, or counting down from one hundred are just a few mental exercises that may help them feel better.
- Pause for a moment. Allow your child to take a brief time-out or ask a teacher if they can leave the classroom for a drink of water or a moment of privacy when they need to regroup. Make it plain to your child that this is something they can do before they are sent there for misbehaviour. They will then be in charge of deciding when they are ready to emerge.
- Make a relaxation kit. Put objects in a box that will help your child relax (or cheer up). Coloring books and crayons, scratch-and-sniff stickers, photos that your child appreciates, and soothing music are just a few things that might help them control their emotions by engaging their senses.
- Work out a solution with your child. If your child’s emotions are causing them problems—perhaps no one wants to play with them because they cry all the time, or they can’t engage in physical education because they get upset when they lose—work together to solve the situation. Inquire about what tactics would be beneficial to them. With your help, they might be able to come up with some innovative ideas.
- Determine mood enhancers. Discuss with your child what they enjoy doing when they are happy, such as playing outside, reading a joke book, or singing their favourite songs. Make a list of those things and inform them that they are their “mood boosters.” Encourage them to do one of them when they’re having a difficult day to help them cope with their emotions.
Emotional Expectations of Adults
There is a great deal of suffering in our world. Particularly for small toddlers, whose idealized visions of the world collide with reality on a regular, if not hourly, basis. When they want to grasp the hand of a reluctant friend, when they misplace their favourite toy, when they want to do something they can’t do, or when they have to do something they don’t want to do.
They are in excruciating discomfort. Even if we, their parents, think it’s nonsense. As a “childish response” to an adult world. But here’s the thing: they are, after all, kids. It is a mistake on our part to assume the same reactions from children as we would from an adult. A blunder for which we may have to pay the price
Getting Things Right vs. Getting Things Better
The “human soul does not want to be guided, fixed, or saved,” according to famed educator Parker J. Palmer. It yearns to be seen just as it is.”
There’s a big difference between improving things and making them perfect. While we won’t always be able to set things right (despite our best efforts), we will almost always be able to improve things.
Why We Don’t Need To Improve Things
Because we’re trying so hard to make things right. Let us consider the power of words in this case: right and wrong are unique concepts, right is good, and wrong is awful. When we try to set things right, we assume that things are currently wrong, that things are currently horrible. Furthermore, we believe that we are the only ones who know what is right and what is wrong. We are the judge and executor of another person’s feelings.
Feelings, on the other hand, are not wrong, bad, negative, or anything else that we can judge. True, feelings can be pleasant or painful to experience.
It Doesn’t Help to Boost People’s Morale
Let’s say your toddler can’t find his favorite toy, or your adolescent failed a test, or your teen broke up with a girlfriend; whatever the case may be, your child is in distress. Fixing the situation is what most of us want to do. Heal the wounds. But, if we ignore the discomfort, will it go away? If we say things like, “But you have so many other toys; let’s go play with them!” or “Come on, this is only the first exam of the semester; I’m sure you’ll do better next time!” or “She wasn’t good for you anyway.”
We try to cheer up instinctively. We feel that suffering is evil and that it is our responsibility to alleviate it. Isn’t that the case, though?
- We “push” people to defend their feelings when we cheer them up. Explain why they’re feeling this way, why it’s really as horrible as they think it is, or just cry some more (for the really little ones)
- People often feel misunderstood when we offer counsel. When we try to connect their pain to a pain we’ve experienced in the past and tell them what we did and what worked for us (does it truly work for us?) they become frustrated.
- We exacerbate sadness by telling individuals what they should do to feel better.
- When we use these tactics repeatedly, we reduce the likelihood that these people will disclose their problems with us in the future. When we do it with small children, we enhance their likelihood of shutting down their emotions.
Unless we let them do all the talking, talking somebody out of agony is incredibly rare. And simply be. With apprehension. With compassion. With affection. There will be no expectations. Without making any judgments. There will be no agenda. This is the mental condition that enables us to assist our emotional child.
Forget What You Think You Know
If we wish to help an emotional youngster, we must set aside our preconceived notions. We utilize our own collection of tools, experiences, memories, and feelings to understand a scenario. But what if our perception of the circumstance differs from a reality?
What if we believe he is in pain because he has lost a loved one, but he never loved her and only felt worthy when he was with her? What if we mistakenly believe our child is in agony because he or she misplaced a toy that served as a confidence booster?
We’ll never know unless we pay attention.
Observation without evaluation will work wonders in this situation. To learn more about how to observe without judging or evaluating, click here.
Helping Our Children Through Big Emotions
The greatest gift to someone in agony is a simple remark accompanied by a hug: “I’m very sorry you’re going through this.” “Would you like to tell me about it?” It’s fine if the response is no. They are not required to do so. We may let our feelings do the talking because we aren’t expecting anything. We can simply hug or be present. In complete quiet. Together.
Being heard is beneficial. It helps to be acknowledged. It’s easier to make things “right” when you’re not under pressure to do so.
Challenging Your child
You may determine that there are occasions when it is preferable to keep your child away from distressing situations. If you know a sad movie is being shown at a sleepover, for example, you can persuade your child to skip it if you know they’ll have trouble pulling themselves together afterward.
Exempting your child from every difficult obstacle or all of life’s truths, on the other hand, is unproductive. Your youngster needs some practice handling a range of emotions in a variety of circumstances for their own success and quality of life.
Maybe you’re thinking of letting your child skip a school field day because you know they have a hard time controlling their emotions and you’re afraid they’ll lose it if their kickball team loses the tournament. While it may sound appealing, a circumstance like this is certain to arise at some point in one’s life, and practise managing it can be extremely beneficial.
Instead of shielding children from all painful situations, make sure you give them plenty of opportunities to manage their huge feelings. Follow your instincts about what is best for your child.
Non Violent Communication
Nonviolent Communication is a fantastic technique for identifying requirements by using feelings as a compass. The practice of guessing is one of my favorite teachings. I know it seems foolish, but it’s true. When we are with a loved one who is in pain, we want to put everything on hold and let them to BE IN PAIN. Recognize, comprehend, and comprehend it. To get there, we’ll have to make educated guesses about how they’re feeling. Every “no” they say will move us and them closer to the “yes.” I’m getting closer to the relief.
And, while alleviation isn’t the goal of guessing (rather, a sense of oneness, empathy, and appreciation), it’s a nice perk if it’s achievable.
Attachment Finding solutions, behaviors, and statements that draw us closer rather than further apart is the goal of parenting. Remember that there’s nothing to mend because nothing is wrong the next time your youngster needs help coping with emotions.
Remember that feelings aren’t harmful or negative. They are feelings, and they are your child’s beating heart at that precise time.
You Emotional child Is Not Broken
Remember that managing one’s emotions involves awareness and skill set that young children are still acquiring. Even so, for some children, being highly emotional is a natural trait.
All they may need is a little additional assistance, direction, and patience from you to learn how to manage their emotions appropriately. The process can be difficult at times, but the effort you put in will benefit your child for the rest of his or her life.
Keep in mind that there is a substantial benefit to this as well: children with strong emotions experience all emotions intensely. This means that, while your excessively emotional child may be enraged, they may also be compassionate or a strong leader. While individuals may experience irritation at level 10, they may also experience delight and exhilaration.
When to Seek Professional Help
While emotional regulation can be learned as early as toddlerhood, research reveals that it takes children until they are 8 or 9 years old to truly master it. As a result, even children who aren’t naturally extremely emotional may go through a stage where they seem to cry a lot or have a lot of angry outbursts.
While there’s probably nothing to worry about, it’s still worth checking in with your physician to make sure nothing is causing what you’re seeing (for example, an undiagnosed ear infection, another medical condition, or a psychological issue).
If your child’s emotions are producing problems in their daily life, you should seek expert help.
They may require additional assistance if they cry so much during the school day that they are unable to concentrate in class or if they are unable to maintain friendships due to their inability to control their anger.
Dysregulation has been linked to a variety of mental health concerns in children, ranging from anxiety, sadness, and substance addiction to suicide ideation, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and violence, according to research.
Fortunately, researchers believe that therapies that target self-regulatory skills can help children make more progress.
Once a medical or psychological condition has been checked out, you can work with your child to teach them how to manage their emotions at important times so that it doesn’t become a problem as they become older. Speak with your kid’s care team if you need assistance figuring out how to best do this for your child.
What You Should Do Next:
1. Subscribe To My Parenting NewsletterSign Up For My Parenting Newsletter for tips on creating a happier home and becoming a more positive parent. As a bonus when you subscribe you’ll get a copy of my FREE Growth Mindset Printout For Kids which is the KEY to raising resilient kids with a growth mindset.
2. Register For A Pretty Awesome FREE 60-Minute Class:Register for a free class called GET KIDS TO LISTEN THE RIGHT WAY; an exclusive FREE class from nationally recognized parenting coach, Amy McCready.
3. Sign Up For A 7 Step Positive Parenting CourseEnroll now in the most in-depth parenting class. After discovering these common sense, easy-to-implement, research-based tools you can learn how to:
- Easily get kids to listen – the FIRST time. No yelling or reminding…not even once!
- Put an end to daily power struggles. Bedtime became a breeze, and all the dawdling, chore wars, sibling rivalry, and mealtime meltdowns disappeared.
- Reduce backtalk by HALF! It’s simple once you know the secrets of these two ‘buckets.’
- Say goodbye to punishments that DON’T work. There’s a 5-step formula that works WAYYY better than time-outs.
- Feel amazing, confident, and empowered as a parent, every day. I NEVER go to bed feeling guilty anymore! (Okay, well maybe sometimes…’ mom guilt’ is still a thing.)
- Sprung M, Münch HM, Harris PL, Ebesutani C, Hofmann SG. Children’s emotion understanding: A meta-analysis of training studies. Dev Rev. 2015;37:41-65. doi:10.1016/j.dr.2015.05.001
- The Center for Parenting Education. Understanding temperament: emotional sensitivity.
- Eisenberg N, Sulik MJ. Emotion-related self-regulation in children. Teach Psychol. 2012;39(1):77-83. doi:10.1177/0098628311430172
- Sanchis-Sanchis A, Grau M, Moliner A, Morales-Murillo C. Effects of age and gender in emotion regulation of children and adolescents. Front Psychol. 2020;11. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00946
- Ogundele MO. Behavioural and emotional disorders in childhood: A brief overview for paediatricians. World J Clin Pediatr. 2018;7(1):9-26. doi:10.5409/wjcp.v7.i1.9
- McQuillan ME, Kultur EC, Bates JE, et al. Dysregulation in children: Origins and implications from age 5 to age 28. Dev Psychopathol. 2018;30(2):695-713. doi:10.1017/S0954579417001572
- Wyman PA, Cross W, Hendricks Brown C, Yu Q, Tu X, Eberly S. Intervention to strengthen emotional self-regulation in children with emerging mental health problems: proximal impact on school behavior. J Abnorm Child Psychol. 2010;38(5):707-720. doi:10.1007/s10802-010-9398-x