Four Tips to Include Big Feelings in Everyday Conversation

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Hey Parents: Big feelings are hard for parents and kids alike. How can you teach your children to handle them in a healthy way? We recommend starting with openness and honesty. We also think it’s beneficial to name emotions, ask questions, and showcase coping skills of your own.

Hey PTAs: Even our youngest learners are under a significant amount of stress. How can we help kids in this space? Teach what their own emotions are, and showcase healthy ways of managing emotions in the classroom and at home.

Hey Principals: Social-emotional learning is an essential focus area in every grade. The following guide can be used as a resource for teachers and parents to teach big feelings and emotional skills in a simple fashion. Feel free to send it out to your community and team.

#1: Be Open and Honest

One of the easiest ways to teach kids about big emotions is to share what you’re feeling yourself. Make sure you’re coping well to teach them in a healthy fashion, and then open up. Try to stay positive so your child doesn’t take on your feelings, but don’t hide them from existence.

  • “I’m feeling a little stressed by the number of new tasks I need to complete at work, so I’d like to take a walk this afternoon to clear my mind.”
  • “I’m sad that I lost my watch last week. I’m helping myself remember that it’s just a physical item and that I can replace it if I’d like. But I also know that it’s okay to feel let down by the situation.”
  • “I’m feeling upset by small things today because I’m overtired. I’ll get better rest tonight. I’d like to sit down and read a book for awhile to help me feel better today.”

#2: Give Emotions a Name

This one is especially important for young children. It’s difficult to handle emotions when you don’t know what they are — or that they’re a normal and acceptable part of life. When you or your child feels something big, try to label it.

  • “You’re feeling mad right now because we couldn’t go to the park as you hoped.”
  • “You have a long list of work to complete — you might be feeling a little stressed.”
  • “It’s okay to feel anxious when we have a doctor’s appointment coming up. I’m here to remind you everything will be okay.”

When these types of conversations become the norm, children will start to fully understand the terms and then use them themselves. Once they get it down and they’re able to label their big emotions, they’ll start to remember successful coping mechanisms and emotional regulation/self-regulation tips from past experiences and lessons, too.

#3: Ask Questions

This tip works two-fold — to start, it helps you understand what children are going through so that you can offer names of emotions, coping skills, and other advice. It also shows kids that you’re listening and you care — a significant difference-maker in ensuring our kids don’t feel alone in their struggles.

  • “You seem quiet today. Is something on your mind?”
  • “Are you worried about changing schools this fall? I think it’s going to be a fun change, but I’d love to talk about the feelings going through your mind.”
  • “Your body posture changed when I said we couldn’t go to the store today. Are you feeling let down?”

#4: Showcase Simple Coping Skills

This one goes back to the times when you’re going through a struggle. What do you do to help yourself? Make a point to showcase coping skills — talk openly with family about what you’re going through — in a children-aged manner, of course. You could also try:

  • Meditation and mindfulness
  • Breathing exercises/deep breaths
  • Exercise
  • Spending time outside in the fresh air and/or sunshine
  • Turning off electronics and reading a book
  • Having a healthy snack
  • Getting extra rest when you’re going through something tough
  • Asking for help from a family member or friend

Even if you’re not openly talking about it, your child will notice when you make these decisions. They’ll see that when big feelings come around, you take a healthy initiative to support your emotional responses. They’ll be much more likely to do the same when they’re struggling, too.

Big feelings are tricky, but they don’t have to be difficult to teach. Try to implement the tips above to help children with emotional intelligence and emotional development at home or in the classroom. Let us know what kinds of results you see! We’re always happy to provide a more in-depth SEL tool for your kiddos if needed — just contact the HeyKiddo team and we’ll explain.

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