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5 Ways to Connect with Our Kids’ Emotions

Parenting is a wild journey. One of the wildest parts is navigating the big emotional swings that are totally natural in kids. Unfortunately, our kids don’t come with emotional operating manuals showing us how to support their emotional development in a way that builds resiliency and agency.

But, fortunately for us, researchers and practitioners have been studying childrens’ emotional development for decades, and they’ve discovered several really powerful strategies that we can start using at any age.

1. Focus on your own emotional health first

Children’s feelings are strongly influenced by the quality of the relationship between parent and child. When children feel safe, loved, and protected, they feel free to express their feelings.

Because kids are watching us all the time, they learn about feelings by observing how we express our own emotions consciously and unconsciously.

To help kids learn how to become aware of and express their emotions in healthy ways,  parents need to be open in talking about their feelings. Parents need to understand their own emotional triggers and ways they can honestly and lovingly express their own emotions.

Since children will imitate their parents' behaviors, it’s helpful to model how to deal with big emotions. We can show our kids how to deal with frustration, for example, by saying out loud, “Gosh I am feeling really frustrated about X, I am going to take a deep breath and talk about what this feels like.”

2. Accept all of your child’s feelings

Most of us want to fix a challenging feeling or make it go away by solving some problem. But when we do this, we take away a perfect opportunity for them to learn about processing and lovingly expressing big feelings.  

The first step to accepting our kids’ feelings is accepting our own discomfort with their challenging feelings. We can begin by acknowledging out loud and labeling a child’s feelings such as, “It must be hard. It seems like you feel sad. I’m thinking that you’re feeling upset by something that Tommy did.”

By merely labeling our child’s emotional state we are validating their inner emotional world. If we can remain calm when we are labeling their feelings, then our children will feel safe and supported while they’re experiencing an emotional rollercoaster.

For example, next time your child is feeling sad or angry, try sitting with them, helping them label their feelings, and letting them know that you are here for them when and if they want to talk. You’ll be surprised how,  as children mature, they will come up with their own solutions.

3. Keep it real

Sometimes parents assume they should only show “positive feelings” in front of their children (happiness, excitement, funniness). While these emotional expressions are wonderful to share, it’s also important to demonstrate authenticity by honestly but lovingly expressing more challenging emotions as well such as anger, sadness, and embarrassment.

Sharing our feelings allows our children to see how we become aware of challenging feelings, and how we process them in ways that maintain a connection to those around us.  

For example, when mom or dad is angry, instead of holding it in, they can say out loud: “I’m feeling really angry right now. It feels a little overwhelming, and I think I need to take a couple of deep breaths so I can process what’s happening.”

By showing our kids that it’s ok to have big and scary feelings, and there are healthy ways to process and express them, we’re building the foundation for emotional connection and resilience.

4. Watch for the emotional feedback loop

Our reactions to our children’s feelings provide us with insight into what we need to attend to in our personal growth. Do you feel triggered when your child gets angry or sad? Does an emotional feedback loop develop where their big feelings spark big feelings in you and things spiral from there?

As parents, we all have unresolved emotional wounds from childhood that arise in our parenting. Once we notice how our kids' feelings trigger our feelings, we can begin the work of addressing our own childhood stuff, so that we can show up and be the best parents we can be.

5. Remember: feelings are not right or wrong, they just are

If we as parents can accept that all feelings are welcome and that they provide us with basic information about our kids’ and our own inner worlds, then we can accept that all feelings are okay to experience. It is what we do with our feelings that is either helpful or hurtful. If we lean into feelings, instead of turning away, we can learn a lot about ourselves and our children along the way.

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5 Ways to Connect with Our Kids’ Emotions

Read on to learn five powerful strategies to help accept, validate and understand your children’s emotions

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Key takeaways

1

Kids' emotional health starts with parents' emotional health

2

Acceptance of challenging emotions might feel scary, but it's the foundation of healthy emotional relationships

3

There are no right or wrong feelings; the key is to honestly and lovingly express them

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Parenting is a wild journey. One of the wildest parts is navigating the big emotional swings that are totally natural in kids. Unfortunately, our kids don’t come with emotional operating manuals showing us how to support their emotional development in a way that builds resiliency and agency.

But, fortunately for us, researchers and practitioners have been studying childrens’ emotional development for decades, and they’ve discovered several really powerful strategies that we can start using at any age.

1. Focus on your own emotional health first

Children’s feelings are strongly influenced by the quality of the relationship between parent and child. When children feel safe, loved, and protected, they feel free to express their feelings.

Because kids are watching us all the time, they learn about feelings by observing how we express our own emotions consciously and unconsciously.

To help kids learn how to become aware of and express their emotions in healthy ways,  parents need to be open in talking about their feelings. Parents need to understand their own emotional triggers and ways they can honestly and lovingly express their own emotions.

Since children will imitate their parents' behaviors, it’s helpful to model how to deal with big emotions. We can show our kids how to deal with frustration, for example, by saying out loud, “Gosh I am feeling really frustrated about X, I am going to take a deep breath and talk about what this feels like.”

2. Accept all of your child’s feelings

Most of us want to fix a challenging feeling or make it go away by solving some problem. But when we do this, we take away a perfect opportunity for them to learn about processing and lovingly expressing big feelings.  

The first step to accepting our kids’ feelings is accepting our own discomfort with their challenging feelings. We can begin by acknowledging out loud and labeling a child’s feelings such as, “It must be hard. It seems like you feel sad. I’m thinking that you’re feeling upset by something that Tommy did.”

By merely labeling our child’s emotional state we are validating their inner emotional world. If we can remain calm when we are labeling their feelings, then our children will feel safe and supported while they’re experiencing an emotional rollercoaster.

For example, next time your child is feeling sad or angry, try sitting with them, helping them label their feelings, and letting them know that you are here for them when and if they want to talk. You’ll be surprised how,  as children mature, they will come up with their own solutions.

3. Keep it real

Sometimes parents assume they should only show “positive feelings” in front of their children (happiness, excitement, funniness). While these emotional expressions are wonderful to share, it’s also important to demonstrate authenticity by honestly but lovingly expressing more challenging emotions as well such as anger, sadness, and embarrassment.

Sharing our feelings allows our children to see how we become aware of challenging feelings, and how we process them in ways that maintain a connection to those around us.  

For example, when mom or dad is angry, instead of holding it in, they can say out loud: “I’m feeling really angry right now. It feels a little overwhelming, and I think I need to take a couple of deep breaths so I can process what’s happening.”

By showing our kids that it’s ok to have big and scary feelings, and there are healthy ways to process and express them, we’re building the foundation for emotional connection and resilience.

4. Watch for the emotional feedback loop

Our reactions to our children’s feelings provide us with insight into what we need to attend to in our personal growth. Do you feel triggered when your child gets angry or sad? Does an emotional feedback loop develop where their big feelings spark big feelings in you and things spiral from there?

As parents, we all have unresolved emotional wounds from childhood that arise in our parenting. Once we notice how our kids' feelings trigger our feelings, we can begin the work of addressing our own childhood stuff, so that we can show up and be the best parents we can be.

5. Remember: feelings are not right or wrong, they just are

If we as parents can accept that all feelings are welcome and that they provide us with basic information about our kids’ and our own inner worlds, then we can accept that all feelings are okay to experience. It is what we do with our feelings that is either helpful or hurtful. If we lean into feelings, instead of turning away, we can learn a lot about ourselves and our children along the way.

Parenting is a wild journey. One of the wildest parts is navigating the big emotional swings that are totally natural in kids. Unfortunately, our kids don’t come with emotional operating manuals showing us how to support their emotional development in a way that builds resiliency and agency.

But, fortunately for us, researchers and practitioners have been studying childrens’ emotional development for decades, and they’ve discovered several really powerful strategies that we can start using at any age.

1. Focus on your own emotional health first

Children’s feelings are strongly influenced by the quality of the relationship between parent and child. When children feel safe, loved, and protected, they feel free to express their feelings.

Because kids are watching us all the time, they learn about feelings by observing how we express our own emotions consciously and unconsciously.

To help kids learn how to become aware of and express their emotions in healthy ways,  parents need to be open in talking about their feelings. Parents need to understand their own emotional triggers and ways they can honestly and lovingly express their own emotions.

Since children will imitate their parents' behaviors, it’s helpful to model how to deal with big emotions. We can show our kids how to deal with frustration, for example, by saying out loud, “Gosh I am feeling really frustrated about X, I am going to take a deep breath and talk about what this feels like.”

2. Accept all of your child’s feelings

Most of us want to fix a challenging feeling or make it go away by solving some problem. But when we do this, we take away a perfect opportunity for them to learn about processing and lovingly expressing big feelings.  

The first step to accepting our kids’ feelings is accepting our own discomfort with their challenging feelings. We can begin by acknowledging out loud and labeling a child’s feelings such as, “It must be hard. It seems like you feel sad. I’m thinking that you’re feeling upset by something that Tommy did.”

By merely labeling our child’s emotional state we are validating their inner emotional world. If we can remain calm when we are labeling their feelings, then our children will feel safe and supported while they’re experiencing an emotional rollercoaster.

For example, next time your child is feeling sad or angry, try sitting with them, helping them label their feelings, and letting them know that you are here for them when and if they want to talk. You’ll be surprised how,  as children mature, they will come up with their own solutions.

3. Keep it real

Sometimes parents assume they should only show “positive feelings” in front of their children (happiness, excitement, funniness). While these emotional expressions are wonderful to share, it’s also important to demonstrate authenticity by honestly but lovingly expressing more challenging emotions as well such as anger, sadness, and embarrassment.

Sharing our feelings allows our children to see how we become aware of challenging feelings, and how we process them in ways that maintain a connection to those around us.  

For example, when mom or dad is angry, instead of holding it in, they can say out loud: “I’m feeling really angry right now. It feels a little overwhelming, and I think I need to take a couple of deep breaths so I can process what’s happening.”

By showing our kids that it’s ok to have big and scary feelings, and there are healthy ways to process and express them, we’re building the foundation for emotional connection and resilience.

4. Watch for the emotional feedback loop

Our reactions to our children’s feelings provide us with insight into what we need to attend to in our personal growth. Do you feel triggered when your child gets angry or sad? Does an emotional feedback loop develop where their big feelings spark big feelings in you and things spiral from there?

As parents, we all have unresolved emotional wounds from childhood that arise in our parenting. Once we notice how our kids' feelings trigger our feelings, we can begin the work of addressing our own childhood stuff, so that we can show up and be the best parents we can be.

5. Remember: feelings are not right or wrong, they just are

If we as parents can accept that all feelings are welcome and that they provide us with basic information about our kids’ and our own inner worlds, then we can accept that all feelings are okay to experience. It is what we do with our feelings that is either helpful or hurtful. If we lean into feelings, instead of turning away, we can learn a lot about ourselves and our children along the way.

Parenting is a wild journey. One of the wildest parts is navigating the big emotional swings that are totally natural in kids. Unfortunately, our kids don’t come with emotional operating manuals showing us how to support their emotional development in a way that builds resiliency and agency.

But, fortunately for us, researchers and practitioners have been studying childrens’ emotional development for decades, and they’ve discovered several really powerful strategies that we can start using at any age.

1. Focus on your own emotional health first

Children’s feelings are strongly influenced by the quality of the relationship between parent and child. When children feel safe, loved, and protected, they feel free to express their feelings.

Because kids are watching us all the time, they learn about feelings by observing how we express our own emotions consciously and unconsciously.

To help kids learn how to become aware of and express their emotions in healthy ways,  parents need to be open in talking about their feelings. Parents need to understand their own emotional triggers and ways they can honestly and lovingly express their own emotions.

Since children will imitate their parents' behaviors, it’s helpful to model how to deal with big emotions. We can show our kids how to deal with frustration, for example, by saying out loud, “Gosh I am feeling really frustrated about X, I am going to take a deep breath and talk about what this feels like.”

2. Accept all of your child’s feelings

Most of us want to fix a challenging feeling or make it go away by solving some problem. But when we do this, we take away a perfect opportunity for them to learn about processing and lovingly expressing big feelings.  

The first step to accepting our kids’ feelings is accepting our own discomfort with their challenging feelings. We can begin by acknowledging out loud and labeling a child’s feelings such as, “It must be hard. It seems like you feel sad. I’m thinking that you’re feeling upset by something that Tommy did.”

By merely labeling our child’s emotional state we are validating their inner emotional world. If we can remain calm when we are labeling their feelings, then our children will feel safe and supported while they’re experiencing an emotional rollercoaster.

For example, next time your child is feeling sad or angry, try sitting with them, helping them label their feelings, and letting them know that you are here for them when and if they want to talk. You’ll be surprised how,  as children mature, they will come up with their own solutions.

3. Keep it real

Sometimes parents assume they should only show “positive feelings” in front of their children (happiness, excitement, funniness). While these emotional expressions are wonderful to share, it’s also important to demonstrate authenticity by honestly but lovingly expressing more challenging emotions as well such as anger, sadness, and embarrassment.

Sharing our feelings allows our children to see how we become aware of challenging feelings, and how we process them in ways that maintain a connection to those around us.  

For example, when mom or dad is angry, instead of holding it in, they can say out loud: “I’m feeling really angry right now. It feels a little overwhelming, and I think I need to take a couple of deep breaths so I can process what’s happening.”

By showing our kids that it’s ok to have big and scary feelings, and there are healthy ways to process and express them, we’re building the foundation for emotional connection and resilience.

4. Watch for the emotional feedback loop

Our reactions to our children’s feelings provide us with insight into what we need to attend to in our personal growth. Do you feel triggered when your child gets angry or sad? Does an emotional feedback loop develop where their big feelings spark big feelings in you and things spiral from there?

As parents, we all have unresolved emotional wounds from childhood that arise in our parenting. Once we notice how our kids' feelings trigger our feelings, we can begin the work of addressing our own childhood stuff, so that we can show up and be the best parents we can be.

5. Remember: feelings are not right or wrong, they just are

If we as parents can accept that all feelings are welcome and that they provide us with basic information about our kids’ and our own inner worlds, then we can accept that all feelings are okay to experience. It is what we do with our feelings that is either helpful or hurtful. If we lean into feelings, instead of turning away, we can learn a lot about ourselves and our children along the way.

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