A Parent’s Guide to Teaching Kids About Emotions

From child temper tantrums to teenage meltdowns, kids can be as unpredictable as a summer storm – but teaching them how to identify and manage big feelings can lead to a lifetime of emotional intelligence and well-being. It’s so important for parents to teach kids how to understand their feelings because emotions play a huge role in shaping our behaviors, social interactions, and thought patterns. Kids who grow up learning about emotions are better equipped to regulate their behavior, communicate effectively, build healthy relationships, and make sound decisions based on empathy and consideration for others. Most importantly, teaching kids about emotions can also help prevent mental health issues from developing, such as anxiety and depression.

We understand that talking to your kids about emotions can be a bit intimidating. You might not know where to start, especially if you didn’t talk about emotions in your own family growing up. Addressing our own emotional vulnerabilities can be uncomfortable and require self-reflection, and it may be hard to balance empathy and guidance without dismissing or minimizing the emotions of your kids. The fear of making mistakes can also create a barrier to open and honest conversations about emotions. However, despite these challenges, talking about emotions with your kids can lead to stronger parent-child relationships and you’ll be glad that you did it.

We want to offer some suggestions to make this process a little easier.


Start by talking about your own emotions:  One of the best ways to teach kids about emotions is by sharing your own feelings with them. By talking openly and honestly about how you feel, you can help kids understand that it’s normal to have emotions and that everyone experiences them.


Create a safe space:  Creating a safe and supportive environment where kids feel comfortable expressing their emotions is crucial. Let your child know that it’s okay to feel all types of emotions, and that you’re there to help them work through them.


Label emotions:  Kids often don’t know what to call their emotions, so it can be helpful to teach them different emotion words. You can use books, movies, or real-life situations to teach kids what different emotions feel like and how to identify them.


Use games and activities:   Kids learn best through play, so using games and activities can be an effective way to teach them about emotions. You can create emotion charts or make a “feelings wheel” that shows different emotions and how they’re connected.


Encourage emotional reflection:   Prompt kids to reflect on their own emotions and experiences. Ask open-ended questions to stimulate discussion and self-awareness, such as “How did that situation make you feel?” or “Why do you think you reacted that way?”


Teach empathy:   Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. Teach kids to imagine what it would be like to be in someone else’s shoes, and encourage them to think about how their actions might make others feel.


Model appropriate emotional responses:   Kids learn by watching and imitating the adults around them. Show your child how to appropriately express their emotions by modeling healthy ways to deal with your own emotions.


Talk about coping strategies:  Help kids develop healthy coping mechanisms to deal with difficult emotions. Teach them techniques such as deep breathing, mindfulness, or engaging in activities they enjoy to manage their emotions in a constructive way.


Use problem-solving skills:   Encourage problem-solving skills to address emotional challenges. Encourage kids to think critically about the situation, consider different perspectives, and explore possible solutions.


Encourage journaling or drawing:  Provide your child with a journal or art supplies and encourage them to express their emotions through writing or drawing. This creative outlet allows kids to explore and process their feelings in a non-verbal way.


Celebrate emotional growth:  Acknowledge and celebrate moments when your child demonstrates emotional growth, such as effectively managing their anger or showing empathy towards others. Recognizing their progress reinforces the value of emotional intelligence and encourages further development.


Seek professional guidance if needed:   If you find that your child is struggling with managing their emotions or if you need additional support, consider seeking guidance from a mental health professional.


At River Oaks Psychology, we recognize that parents play a vital role in helping their kids learn about emotions. Teaching kids about emotions is an ongoing process that requires patience, active listening, and empathy. It involves encouraging open communication, validating emotions, teaching coping strategies, and promoting empathy towards oneself and others. By investing in their emotional development, parents equip their kids with essential life skills that contribute to their overall well-being and success in building meaningful relationships. Over time, parents can foster emotional intelligence and create a solid foundation for their kids to thrive emotionally, now and in the future.


Written by Lauren Presutti

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