Resources for Families

Understanding and Managing Emotions

24 Oct 2022

Lou Ambrosy
Lou Ambrosy Training Manager & Occupational Therapist
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Understanding and managing emotions is important for development and wellbeing in children. Recognising and naming emotions helps children understand about what they may be feeling. This lays the groundwork for children to start to learn to regulate themselves. There is a strong connection between a child’s ability to communicate, and their ability to manage their own feelings and emotions.

A child who is two years old, doesn’t have the words or means to tell you if they are upset or frustrated. If we are frustrated as adults, we can tell the other person. We can walk or drive away, and we can discuss this later with our families. A younger child doesn’t have all these skills yet, so they may either withdraw from a situation, or lash out at someone nearby. This is part of typical development; young children learning ways to communicate and regulate their feelings.

Name Those Feelings

Support your child to learn about the different types of feelings that they may be having. You can do this in many ways such as: Saying something like, “I can see that you are feeling angry. It is ok to feel angry. Come and sit with me until you feel calm.’ But don’t forget to notice and comment when your child is feeling happy and calm as well. Naming emotions is a great way to help children learn that what they are feeling is ok, and to start to be able to name what they are feeling themselves.

You can also start helping your child learn simple strategies to manage their emotions.

For example:

  • Teach your child ways to calm down from strong emotions like counting to 10 or taking five deep breaths.
  • Suggest ways to react to strong emotions – for example, clap your hands when you’re excited, ask for a hug when you’re sad, or squeeze your cushion really hard when you’re angry.
  • Read books about feelings. There are many books on the market to support children to understand their feelings and emotions. Some of the best-known Australian ones are by Trace Maroney.

Regularly reading books with your child to explore all their emotions can help them to label them.

Noah’s Ark has a series of simple feelings books available. If you would like a set of these books, we are offering them free to any family, with pickup from our Bundoora office.

All Feelings are ok, but not all Behaviours are ok

Children need to know that whatever they are feeling, whether it is excitement, happiness, or anger, these are all ok to feel. But what is not ok, is to hit another person for instance if you are frustrated.

Sometimes we see a child behave in a way that is not ok, but remember, behaviour is the tip of the iceberg. The feelings and needs of the chid are what lies beneath and the cause of the behaviour. Look at this great illustration from the Australian Childhood Foundation. A really good message of what we may be seeing.

Behaviour iceberg

Emotional Development & Managing Emotions

The Raising Children Network is always a first go to for parents, and this topic is no exception.

You can explore what emotional regulation means, and some great tips and strategies you may be able to use with your own child.

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