How to Help Your Kids Manage Their Emotions

By: Kristin Martineau | March 13, 2019

Almost every time I am coaching a client and I’m teaching them emotional management skills they say, “My kid really needs to learn how to do this”, or  “Can you coach my child and teach him this?”

I sure can, but I usually don’t.

Here’s why : The most effective way to teach your child emotional management is to model it.

If you aren’t doing it, it doesn’t matter what skills they are taught because your example is the most powerful teacher.

You first, then help your kids.

There are lots of tools to help your kids, but I’ll just tell you two to start with for now.

The first step in helping your kids manage their emotions is helping them understand that it’s ok to feel bad. 50% of life doesn’t feel good and that doesn’t mean anything has gone wrong.  Parents are usually very quick to try and make their kids feel better and there are lots of readily available ways to do it.  A snack, a new toy, or turning on the TV will usually do the trick.  The message is that negative feelings are intolerable and they need fixed.

You can be empathetic and loving while still allowing them to experience the full range of human emotion. I usually say something like this to my kids when they are upset, “I know you are feeling anxious about going to school today.  I feel anxious sometimes too and it doesn’t feel very good does it? I’m not worried though because I know you can handle it.”

The next step is to help them identify what they are feeling.  When they can name the feeling and observe it in themselves they are learning to separate themselves from the emotion a little bit. They learn that they can feel the emotion, and not be the emotion.

This is a rather abstract concept so when I’m teaching it to kids I make it easier for them to understand by telling them they have a little pet inside of them.  They get to pick what it is and give it a name.  One of my kids has a kitten named Mittens.  I tell them that their pet feels all sorts of things.  Sometimes she is happy and silly and sometimes she gets mad or sad.  Anything Mittens feels is ok.

Our conversations usually go something like this, ” I can see that you are upset. Is Mittens upset too?”

“Yes!”

“What feeling is she having right now?”

“Mad!”

“Oh I know how mad feels. I feel that way sometimes too. What does feeling mad make Mittens want to do?”

“Hit her!”

“Tell Mittens that it’s ok to feel mad, but she can feel mad without hitting anyone.”

“Ok.”

“What does mad feel like?”

“I don’t know.”

“When I’m mad I feel hot. My whole body gets tight and I feel like I want to yell.”

“Yeah me too.”

Sometimes this conversation can’t happen in the heat of the moment, so I wait until they are calm to have it.  This will take time and patience for them to learn. They won’t be good at it at first.  Most adults aren’t good at it!  We often expect our kids to manage themselves and not have meltdowns, yet we have a grown up meltdowns whenever we are angry or upset.

You have to be willing to learn it yourself if you want your kids to learn it.

Did you know I do free consultations?  CLICK HERE to make an appointment. Spring break is coming. My schedule is packed tighter this next week so I can go on vacation. Grab your spot now or you’ll have to wait until I get back.

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