Parents Learning Together

Coping with Big Emotions

“Emotions are the fabric that connects us to the world”

Handling big emotions is a tough job! As parents, there are many ways we can support our children in learning how to cope with these big feelings. Below are some strategies to co-regulate with your child, or help them when they experience big emotions:

Connect and Redirect – It is important to connect to our child first, before we take any further steps. Acknowledging feelings and expressing empathy, helps to create this connection. From here, you can set boundaries and redirect. “I can see you might feel frustrated. It’s ok to feel upset. I can help you”.

Stories – sharing and reading stories of how others cope with big emotions can help our kids understand themselves.

Offer Choices – Provide lots of opportunities to help your child feel in control, find ways to allow them to make decisions for themselves. For example, “Red shirt or blue shirt?”

Move the Body – A powerful way to gain emotional balance is to move the body – dance, play, run, climb, wrestle (this increases bonding hormones and decreases stress hormones).

Play, Pause, and Rewind – After an upsetting event, children benefit from pausing and taking a look back at what happened. Storytelling helps children understand, process and heal from stressful events.

Let the Emotions Roll By – Give reminders that everything passes, emotions are transient and will come and go.

Emotion Coaching Phrases

“It’s ok to be upset, it’s good to let it out”All emotions are ok, they need to be felt and safely expressed. All emotions need acknowledgement. 

“I hear you, I’m here for you, I’ll stay with you”The best gift we can give our children is to stay with them in their big emotions, just BE THERE with them.

“It’s ok to feel how you feel, it’s not ok to…” – Sometimes we need to set limits on behaviours while we acknowledge the underlying emotion. The emotion is fine, but the expression of it may need some guidance. Taking a break when we are angry is a good way to regulate anger, get some space, take a deep breath and gain some new perspective.

“How you feel right now won’t last forever”Big emotions can take over and give the impression that they are forever. As parents, we need to be able to let things go, teaching our children that they can let things go too.

“Let’s take a breath, take a break, sit down and pause”It’s hard to sit with a strong emotion, but if we allow ourselves to simply be, the emotion loses it’s hold over us as we experience and express the emotion. Describe your own experiences with emotions; let them know what sadness, anger, and frustration feels like to you and how you can let the emotion pass.

“You are good and kind” – When children are dysregulated and have big emotions it can make the child appear ‘bad’, but no emotion, no matter how big, makes a child bad. Our children can make mistakes; that is how they act, not who they are. Research shows us that telling our kids they are kind, leads to more acts of kindness.

“I’ll be over here when you need me” – Validation and acknowledgment is important, but sometimes kids just need some space. You can acknowledge while giving space, by saying, “I see you are very upset.. I
will be right over here when you need me”. This is supporting them from a safe and present distance. You are trusting them to use some strategies to calm themselves down.

“Let’s have a do-over” – Sometimes all we need is a chance to reset. Kids make mistakes sometimes and they need to know they can have a chance to do it better.

“What can we learn from this? What is the lesson?” – Life gives us many opportunities to grow and learn. Teaching our kids that there is a lesson when we struggle, helps them learn from the experience. There is a lesson/learning in our challenges.

“You’ll remember next time” – This one simple phrase communicates to our children that their mistake today is not a permanent one. Tell them this after they are calm and regulated.. This gives them something positive to focus on, shows them that we believe in them, and can help empower them to make positive choices in the future.

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