Expressing and coping with feelings

Bradley Hospital Psychologist David Lichtenstein, PhD, Offers Tips for Parents and Teachers on How to Help Children Develop Their Social/Emotional Skills.

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Young children experience a range of strong feelings, including joy, anger, sadness, fear, and frustration. However, young children often do not have the skills necessary to express and manage these feelings on their own. "Problem" behaviors in young children are often related to their difficulties in expressing and managing strong feelings.

Parents can help their children by promoting emotional vocabulary and helping them to label their feelings.

Feeling Facts for Parents

  • All feelings are okay.
  • All behaviors are not okay.
  • You can't talk anyone out of a feeling. For example, telling your child, "Don't be scared" is not going to be effective.
  • Feelings aren't forever. They often change quickly.
  • Children, and adults, may have more than one feeling about any one thing. For example, children may feel happy, angry and jealous about a new baby sister.
  • When you accept a child's feelings, you can then help them to label and express their feelings appropriately.
  • Angry feelings (even toward you) are some of the most important to accept and to teach appropriate expression.
  • Be calm and supportive when your child loses control of his or her feelings. It is frightening for your child as well. Let him or her know that you will be there to help.
  • Be a model for appropriate emotional expression and positive coping with a range of positive and negative feelings.