Help Kids Learn How to Identify, Understand, and Cope with Emotions

Coping with intense emotions can be difficult, especially for children. As adults, we can help children learn to cope by encouraging them to label or identify what they are feeling, helping them understand their emotions, and then providing them strategies to handle those ups and downs.

Label and Identify Emotions:
Help children identify different emotions such as anger, sadness, fear, joy, and excitement. Use emotion charts to help children identify their emotions on their own.
Best practice: Try not to minimize or dismiss how a child is feeling.

Understand Different Emotions:
Help children understand why they are feeling what they are feeling. You can use statements such as “You got angry when I took away your toy” to explain the relationship between what happened and what they are feeling.  Allow children the opportunity to explain their side.

Manage and Cope with Emotions:

  • Visually calming activities. These activities help children turn their attention towards something calm in nature.
    Examples: watching a sand-timer or watching fish swim.

  • Activities to unwind. These activities help children relax.
    Examples: blowing bubbles, coloring, or listening to music.

  • Activities to comfort. These activities help comfort children and send the message that they are safe.
    Examples: providing them with their favorite toy, giving them a hug, or petting an animal.

  • Activities to switch focus. These activities help children switch their attention to something else entirely.
    Examples: painting, reading a book, or chewing gum.

  • Physical activities. These activities use exercise and movement to help children cope.
    Examples: skipping rope, jumping, or running outside.

Children are continually learning from us, watching how we handle situations and our emotions. If you find yourself in a position where you did not handle your emotions appropriately, use this as an opportunity for kids to learn. Acknowledge that you didn’t handle your emotions appropriately and apologize for your actions. It can sound something like, “I shouldn’t have yelled when I got angry and I’m sorry for that.”

Try out these strategies and let us know what you think!


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