Ages & Stages
Infants and Toddlers
- Give words for expressing her feelings: “You feel sad the plans have changed,” or: “Wow, you worked hard on this painting. Look how nice it is -- you must feel really proud!”
- Give words to your child’s feelings while still setting limits on his behavior: “You get so excited to see your friend, but it hurts when you hug him so tightly. He might prefer a gentler hug.”
- Teach your child how to calm down and learn from her what helps her do so.
- Model healthy ways of handling emotions. Take a deep breath or a time-out (if it’s safe) when you get angry. Use “feeling” words to describe your own emotions.
Preschoolers and Kindergarteners
- Continue giving your child words for his feelings.
- Help your child use her words.
- Introduce “I” messages: “I feel angry (or other feeling) when________, I want ________ and I am willing to __________ .”
- Reinforce ways that work for your child to calm himself. This is the beginning of regulating emotions.
- When your child gets angry and you remind her to take some deep breaths, this sets the stage for her to stop when she’s angry and you’re not there to help her.
- If your child gets anxious about taking tests, and you talk to her about ways to calm down at home, she can take those ideas with her to school.
You may suggest telling herself, “I can do this, I studied hard, and I’m ready.” This is an example of self-talk, which can be very effective for calming down.
- What if your child gets so excited about an upcoming event, it’s hard for him to focus on other things?
Identify and empathize with the feeling: “You feel very excited about Jennifer’s birthday party. It’s hard to focus on other things, but you can do it, and then you’ll be able to really enjoy the party.”
Elementary Age Children
- Work on identifying feelings with words.
- Teach your child to identify situations that make her feel angry, sad, disappointed, excited, impatient, loving, gleeful, and so on. She can then recognize and manage the feeling, and act in an intentional way.
- Role play to practice using words to manage situations. (Kids love it!)
- Keep lines of communication open. Encourage your child to explain why he’s feeling the way he is, and talk about the best way to handle the emotion. If your child feels anxious about a sporting event or test, teach her how to use self-talk (“I can handle this”) or deep breathing to manage the anxiety. You may have to use a little trial and error to determine what works best for your child.
- Explain what the term empathy means (the ability to understand how another person feels). Stress its importance in understanding how a friend feels, or appreciate the friend’s success.
- Stress the importance of non-violent solutions and problem-solving.
Pre-Adolescents and Adolescents
This age group presents great coaching opportunities, within the scope of your values, to manage emotions. If you value respect, you model respect by listening to your teen with undivided attention, teaching him to do the same.
- Continue to encourage open communication.
- Listen with empathy. When kids feel heard by their parents, they’re more able to hear what their parents have to say.
- Stress that people can have different points of view, and that’s OK.
- Work on regulating emotion and problem solving. Continue helping your teen find strategies to recognize and work with her feelings. Continue encouraging your teen to come up with solutions for problems and pick the best one.