Teaching Your Child about Feelings and Emotions

Parents can incorporate teaching about emotions in everyday life. Ideas include:

  • Let your child know that emotions are a normal part of life, and big emotions such as getting angry or frustrated are ok.
  • Talk about your own feelings and be the role model for language and coping strategies, e.g. ‘Oh this is still not working! I’m getting frustrated, so I’ll do something else and come back to it later.’
  • Teach your child to name their feelings and recognise what their face or body reflects at that time, e.g. ‘You aren’t smiling and your head and shoulders are down…what are you thinking? Is it because it is raining and we can’t go outside to play?’
  • Encourage your child to verbalise and describe their feelings and thinking. Ask an open-ended question, e.g. ‘Tell me about what’s happening?’ and then be there to listen.
  • When your child is calm, talk about things to do at times of big emotions – things that could replace a response such as shouting or running away.
  • Teach and practise with your child chosen coping strategies, e.g. walking away, getting a drink of water, doing some breathing exercises or changing activities. Make sure this is when everyone is calm. 
  • Try a few until your child discovers the ones that work best for them.
  • Develop a script to use with your child, e.g. ‘It’s hard when we can’t do what we want to do. Let’s take a deep breath and blow away that feeling.’

Picture books (or movies and shows) are excellent teaching tools to illustrate feelings and emotions in others. Parents can draw attention to the characters, discussing facial features and body actions linked to the feeling. Connections can then be made between the character’s feelings and times when the child (or parent) may have felt that. 

This booklist, provided by The Zones of Regulation, share some books suitable for 4-11 year olds, with ideas from teachers on how and when to use them. Even if you are not using the Zones approach, the booklist is a useful guide for parents. 

Have any questions?

Have questions about the content of this blog post or need further insights? Don’t hesitate to reach out to Chris! Your curiosity and feedback are always welcome.