Everyone experiences a wide array of emotions throughout life. Some of us seem to feel them in a bigger and more vibrant way. Children are just beginning to learn about their emotions – what they are, how to express them, and how other people react to them. For children who experience emotions on a deeper level, coping skills and self regulation can be a much more challenging task. As the parent or caregiver of a child with big emotions, it’s our job to support and guide these children in a developmentally appropriate way.

Labeling Emotions

Children are still learning what it is that they are feeling. Helping them to label the emotion they are experiencing will give them the tools to communicate their needs in the future. Whenever possible, it can be helpful to point out what caused the emotion as well. 

Saying, “I see that you feel frustrated because your block tower fell over,” is an effective way to put a name to the child’s emotion while also helping them to see what caused that particular feeling.

Validating Feelings

For any child experiencing a strong emotion, it’s important to acknowledge the emotion and the cause. By validating their emotions, we show children that they are not doing anything wrong by feeling what comes naturally to them.

Saying, “It is really frustrating when block towers fall over!” shows the child that you understand what they are feeling and that you too have experienced frustration.

Understanding What is Acceptable Behavior

It is certainly acceptable to feel our feelings. However, children need to learn what behavior is and is not acceptable as a response to their emotions. Screaming at others, causing physical harm, or damaging property is never acceptable. Praise your child for any appropriate reactions they may have and redirect them to more appropriate responses as need.

Saying, “It is ok to feel frustrated, but it isn’t a safe choice to throw the blocks. Instead, let’s try building the tower again,” shows the child that while their emotion is valid, certain behaviors are not the right way to express them. Instead, you are offering a more appropriate solution.

Calming & Regulating Big Emotions

Children are prone to impulsive reactions. When a child has big emotions, impulsivity is even more common. Providing children with the tools to manage those impulsive reactions can help them to avoid unacceptable behavior and self regulate. 

Saying, “Let’s take a few deep breaths and count to ten. That can help you to feel less frustrated.” supports the child in learning to regulate more impulsive behaviors and relieve the more immediate, overwhelming feelings.

Asking for Help

Most importantly, children need to know that it is okay to ask for help. Regardless of our age, we all have moments were something is just not going the way we want it to. Feeling comfortable asking for help can alleviate negative emotions and help us to feel supported and understood. If children feel that they can ask for help, they may be less likely to fall victim to overwhelming emotions. Sadness, frustration, and anger will still occur at times, but hopefully in more manageable ways.

If you are looking to raise a self-aware, mindful child check our online class. We encourage you to take it as a parent or gift it to your nanny!

About The Author

Sarah PSarah Proctor has worked with young children for over 25 years as a teacher, childcare director, nanny, and mom of two girls. She has her Bachelors Degree in Early Childhood Education and Administration from UMass Amherst. In addition, Sarah has her Director 2 certification from the Department of Early Education and Care.