Kong Academy | Empowering Kids Through Play

Helping Kids Handle Big Emotions: A Parent’s Guide

As a parent, we have all dealt with our children experiencing “big feelings” like anger, excitement or frustration that they have trouble controlling. These intense emotions are developmentally normal but can lead to poor behavior if unchecked.

Here is how to help your kids manage those big feelings with healthy strategies to process these feelings.

1. Validate first: “How do you feel?”

Child psychology experts explain that validating children’s feelings is key. When overwhelmed, labeling the emotion out loud (“You seem really angry right now”) helps them gain control. Realizing what they are feeling leads to them knowing how to manage that emotion and that is empowering.

Then tell them, it’s ok to feel that way. They have the emotion and if we are going to give them the gift of emotional control. It’s important to let them know that however they feel is ok and is in their power to control their behavior.

2. Strategize second: “get it out OR calm it down?”

After validation, stay curious and find if they need to: “get it out or calm it down.” “Get it out” refers to a high energy outlet. “Calm it down” refers to a low energy strategy. High energy outlets are things that you can do like running, moving, yelling, hitting, etc. Low energy outlets are things you can do like breathing exercises, taking a time out, drawing, etc.

 

3. Problem-Solve third: “What CAN you do?”

Tell them what they can do, not what they cannot do. So often parents and teachers fall into this trap by being reactive to poor behavior. Instead give them options that are appropriate to your values, your situation and your location!

Here are some examples: ripping paper, punching pillows, yelling outside, clapping out energy, or deep breathing to calm down.

“When I feel angry, what can I do that’s ok with my mom/dad/teacher/nanny?” Roleplaying scenarios makes responses more automatic. Share scenarios with your kid when you had to manage your own frustration. Model the skills and share your challenges.

Just remember:

How do you feel?
It’s ok to feel _____.
“When you feel ______, you can _______.

While outbursts will still happen, over time and with consistency, these strategies build emotional intelligence. Our patience and guidance surrounding their “big feelings” teaches vital coping mechanisms. Harvard studies found that children who develop these skills by age 8 experience greater health, academic and career success.

By weathering the rollercoaster together, we equip our kids to handle emotions for a lifetime. You can do this! We are here to help 🙂

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