How can I help my child deal with their emotions?

When children are born, they already have emotional reactions. They can cry in response to frustration, hunger and pain.

As they grow and learn, they begin to experience other emotions. It can be difficult for them to understand and process their feelings at first.

A grumpy child sits being hugged by their parent

Give them tools to process emotions

It can take some time for your child to learn how to deal with their emotions.

  • You can help them to understand, express and cope with emotions from a young age. Read our advice on how to do this.
  • Try to be a role model for them. Think about how you handle your emotions and be aware of what your child sees you do.
  • Help them identify their emotions – they may not know how to spot them at first.
  • Set aside ‘worry time’. This could be 15 minutes a day for your child to talk to you about anything that’s bothering them.

Help them manage difficult feelings

Talk about emotions

Allow your child to be honest with you about how they feel. Listen to them when they tell you what they think and why they are acting in a certain way.

If your child has had a tantrum or outburst, try talking to them once they are calm. This may be the next day, and that’s OK.

  • Bring up the reaction by recognising what started it and how they might have felt.
  • Try to show that you understand their feelings.
  • Tell them it’s OK to have those feelings, but that they need to express them in an appropriate way. For example, “It’s OK to feel disappointed and upset, but it’s not OK to throw things at people.”
  • Talk about how they might handle their emotions in the future.

Sometimes a child may have a meltdown because they feel overloaded, and these are different to tantrums. Read our articles on how to handle sensory meltdowns and autistic meltdowns.

If your child is older and you’re worried about how they’re acting, we have guidance on talking about difficult topics. Or see our articles related to low mood and keeping your child safe.

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