Small Kids Big Emotions: Teaching Children To Cope


Labeling emotions: Words are a powerful tool. Being able to say, “I’m angry” or “I feel frustrated” can go a long way toward helping children manage those emotions. You don’t have to wait until your child is in the middle of a difficult emotion. Teachers and parents can use books, pictures, and conversations to support an expanding vocabulary around emotions. Reading time is a great time to practice recognizing emotions with your child. Ask what they think characters are feeling, or point out feeling faces in illustrations.

Breathe Through It: Breathing techniques can help even very young children handle difficult situations. Great breathing techniques for children include feeling their chest rise and fall with each breath and “snake breaths”, breathing deeply in through the nose and exhaling with a low hiss.

Sensory Experiences: Teachers know that sensory experiences create a calmer classroom. Squeezing sand or playdough, watching a calming bottle, or playing with water gives the opportunity to refocus their energy and come back to the problem when calm.

Physical Activity: Exercise and yoga are very healthy ways to release energy. Teaching children to find a healthy physical release when they need to refocus can create a healthy habit that lasts a lifetime.

Creating: Journals can help children even when they are not yet able to write. Have art supplies ready and encourage your child to draw their feelings, paint, or make something.

Not all strategies will work for every child or every time, but with time and patience, we can help children develop the skills to regulate their emotions, supporting their ability to handle big problems and stress throughout their lives. At school and at home, we can work together to talk our children through their emotions and involve them by asking questions, “It looks like you are feeling very frustrated. What can we do that will help you calm down?” Together, we can empower them to choose strategies that will work for them throughout their lives.

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