Helping Children manage their emotions

For young children, every day is full of new events, experiences and challenges, all of which can trigger a range of new feelings. Helping children recognise and understand their emotions is an important part of supporting their development.

Firstly, how are you feeling?

Fear and anxiety are contagious, but so is being measured and calm. If you are feeling panicky, annoyed or stressed, wait until you are calmer before talking to your child about how they are feeling.

Children pick up on our emotions and learn from us how to manage their feelings. So, when they see that we can tolerate some uncertainty, or feel cross but still manage to calm ourselves they know that this is possible too. When we can approach a child’s emotions with calm and curiosity they will remember how we helped them this time and be able to have that in mind in the future.

Remind your children it’s OK to have feelings

Let children know that what they are feeling is normal. It can help to name the feelings for them.

For example, disappointment at the cancellation of a birthday party is linked to feelings of a loss of control. We might be tempted to jolly someone along by saying “never mind we’ll have an even better party later on”, or be cross because they are in a temper, but this can leave them feeling we don’t understand their loss.

It is better to acknowledge the feelings by saying “I can see you’re disappointed because you wanted to go to the party. You were looking forward to it so now you may be feeling sad or annoyed”.

Staying alongside the feeling, even if it is difficult, helps children to know that it is possible to manage difficult emotions and that they are not alone in doing so.

Children need help to regulate their emotions

If a child becomes very overwhelmed by their emotions they can be in a state where reason and rational explanation will not get through and will need to calm down before they can think clearly.






It can help to remind them that they can have a ‘thinking head’ or a ‘worry head’ or an ‘angry head’. They might be using their ‘angry head’ right now but they will find their thinking head again.

Activities to help calm children down and regulate their emotions:

  • The shape game: choosing a shape, such as a circle, and identifying all of the things in the room you can see with this shape.
  • Finger breathing: inhale slowly while tracing up the outside of your little finger and exhale slowly while tracing down the inside of your little finger. Repeat with your ring finger, followed by your middle finger, index finger, and thumb.

Further resources:

Safe Hands and Thinking Minds have links to resources to use when talking to your children about their feelings.

Cbeebies has a page with tips and tricks for helping your child cope with their feelings.

Action for Children has a page on helping your child deal with emotions.

Further support:


Family Action. Providing support for adult members of families via telephone, text, email and webchat on their FAMILYLINE

Family Lives free and confidential helpline for parents in England & Wales How we can help

For parents in Scotland from Children 1st PARENTLINE

For parents in Northern Ireland PARENTLINE

Your Child:

Childline: 0800 1111 (24/7)



This content has been made available from the Home-Start UK website