Tip 11: Helping your child manage negative feelings

Normalising: It is helpful to explain to your children that it is normal to be irritable and feel upset when things are tough, but the bad feelings will pass with time, and there are things they can do to manage big emotions next time they arise.

Calming Tool Kit: You can encourage your children to practise techniques to manage their big emotions. For example, they can find a quiet space to calm down, take deep breaths, distract themselves with exercise/music/reading, or talk to a trusted person. They can use grounding techniques, which involve paying close attention to their senses – the details of what they can see, hear, smell, taste, and feel around them. For example, listening out for lyrics and different instruments in a piece of preferred music, focusing on brush/pencil strokes when painting/colouring, or eating mindfully noticing textures and tastes as they come. They can also create a box of calming activities (e.g., touch: playdough, fidget cubes or spinners, and stress balls; smell: essential oils, candles; hear: favourite music; good memories: photos). Finally, they can imagine being in a safe or fun place.

Reflecting and acting: Because it is hard to think rationally when experiencing big emotions, it is important to encourage children to reflect on their emotions, thoughts, and behaviours once they are calmer. In this way, you can help them think how to be kind and to avoid blaming themselves or others. Over time, they can learn to notice early signs of feelings erupting and to use the above strategies in a timely fashion. Early on it is helpful to offer praise and little rewards when children are able to use those strategies.

Read and download our fact sheets, watch more videos or sign up for our mailing list and free interactive guide.