Helping Kids Manage Negative Emotions: What Parents Need to Know

Negative emotions are a normal part of life, and it is important for parents to have the tools to help their children manage these feelings in healthy ways. It is essential for parents to listen to their child’s feelings without overreacting, match their body language and intensity, avoid diminishing or belittling their feelings, keep the focus on the child, and maintain an open dialogue.

Definition of Negative Emotions

Negative emotions can be defined as any emotion that we perceive as uncomfortable or unpleasant. They can include anger, fear, sadness, guilt, shame, jealousy, envy, anxiety, and frustration. It is important for parents to understand that negative emotions are a normal part of life and that it is okay for children to feel them.

Listening to Feelings and Avoiding Overreaction

When children express negative emotions it is important for parents to take the time to listen without overreacting or trying to fix the problem right away. This allows children to feel heard and understood and helps them learn how to cope with difficult feelings in healthy ways.

Matching Body Language and Intensity

Parents should also match their body language and intensity with that of their child when they are expressing negative emotions. This shows empathy towards their child’s experience and allows them to feel seen and supported.

Avoiding Diminishing or Belittling Feelings

It is also important for parents to avoid diminishing or belittling their child’s feelings. This can cause them to shut down or become defensive which can make it harder for them to process their emotions in healthy ways.

Not Shifting the Focus Away from the Child

When a child expresses negative emotions it is important for parents not to shift the focus away from them by talking about themselves or other people’s experiences. This can make the child feel invalidated and like their feelings don’t matter.

Keeping an Open Dialogue

Finally, it is important for parents to keep an open dialogue with their child about their negative emotions so that they can work together on finding solutions. This will help build trust between parent and child which will make it easier for them both in the long run.

Common Struggles Parents Face

Fear of Upsetting the Parent

Children can be greatly affected by their parent’s reactions to their emotions. If a child perceives that their parent is unhappy or frustrated with them, they may become anxious and fearful of expressing themselves in an effort to avoid upsetting the parent. This can lead to feelings of guilt and shame which can further exacerbate the issue.

Hiding Feelings or Acting Out

A child may also attempt to hide their feelings or act out in order to avoid feeling vulnerable. They may resort to negative behaviors such as lying, cheating, stealing, or being disrespectful in an effort to protect themselves from experiencing unpleasant emotions.

Lack of Self-Regulation

When children lack self-regulation skills, they are unable to control their emotions and behavior. This can lead to impulsive actions and difficulty managing stress. Children who struggle with self-regulation may lash out at others when they feel overwhelmed or frustrated, making it difficult for parents to connect with them emotionally.

Difficulty Expressing Emotions

Many children have difficulty expressing their emotions in a healthy way. They may not know how to verbalize what they’re feeling or lack the vocabulary needed to communicate effectively. This can lead to frustration and confusion for both the child and the parent as they try to understand each other’s perspectives.

Inability to Problem Solve

Children who lack problem solving skills may be unable to identify solutions when faced with challenges or difficult situations. Without guidance from a parent, they may become overwhelmed and give up easily instead of looking for creative ways to solve problems on their own.

Poor Coping Mechanisms

If children don’t have positive coping mechanisms in place, they will turn towards unhealthy ones such as drugs, alcohol, cutting, or eating disorders when trying to manage difficult emotions or stressful situations. These behaviors can be dangerous and should be addressed quickly before they become more deeply ingrained into a child’s lifestyle.

Unresolved Trauma

Some children experience unresolved trauma which can make it difficult for them to cope with everyday life events without feeling overwhelmed or triggered by memories from the past. It is important for parents to recognize signs of trauma in order to provide appropriate support and help their child process any unresolved issues that may be contributing negatively towards their emotional wellbeing.

Withdrawal from Social Settings

When children are struggling emotionally, they often withdraw from social settings and activities that used to bring them joy and comfort. This could mean avoiding friends or activities that used to bring them happiness in order to protect themselves from potential rejection or disappointment due to feeling overwhelmed by unfamiliar situations.

Acknowledge/validate feelings, teach self-regulation, create safe space, use problem solving, find positive coping, process unresolved trauma.

Strategies for Dealing with Negative Emotions

Negative emotions can be difficult for both children and parents to manage, but there are strategies that can help. It is important to acknowledge and validate a child’s feelings, teach self-regulation skills, create a safe space for expression, use problem solving techniques, find positive coping mechanisms, and process unresolved trauma.

Acknowledging and Validating Feelings

When a child expresses negative emotions it is important to acknowledge and validate their feelings. This helps the child feel heard and understood, which can help them cope with their emotions in a healthy way. Parents should listen carefully to what the child is saying without making any judgments or trying to fix the problem right away. Instead, they should focus on understanding how the child feels and show empathy by reflecting back what they are hearing.

Teaching Self-Regulation Skills

Self-regulation skills can help children manage their emotions in healthy ways and prevent overreactions or outbursts of negative emotion. Parents can help their children learn these skills by practicing deep breathing exercises together or engaging in calming activities such as yoga or art therapy. Children should also be encouraged to take breaks when they feel overwhelmed so that they have time to process their emotions before responding.

Creating a Safe Space for Expression

Creating a safe space where children can express their feelings without fear of judgment or criticism is essential for helping them cope with negative emotions. This could involve setting aside special time each day for talking about how the child is feeling or allowing them to express themselves through art or music. It is important that the parent remains patient and nonjudgmental during these conversations so that the child feels comfortable expressing themselves freely and openly.

Problem Solving Techniques

Teaching problem solving techniques can help children better manage their negative emotions by helping them identify solutions to difficult situations rather than simply reacting emotionally. Parents should encourage children to think through problems logically by asking questions such as “What do you think might happen if you do this?” or “What other options do you have?” This helps them become more aware of their choices and make decisions based on reason rather than emotion.

Finding Positive Coping Mechanisms

It is important for parents to help their children find positive coping mechanisms for managing negative emotions such as exercise, journaling, meditation, or talking with friends or family members who understand what they are going through. These activities can provide an outlet for releasing pent up emotions in a healthy way while also teaching children how to manage stress in a productive manner.

Processing Unresolved Trauma

Children who have experienced trauma may find it difficult to cope with negative emotions due to unresolved issues from the past that have not been addressed properly. In these cases it may be necessary to seek professional help from a therapist or counselor who specializes in trauma recovery so that the child can learn effective coping strategies and work through any lingering issues related to the traumatic event(s).


Managing negative emotions in children can be a difficult task for parents. It is important to listen to the child’s feelings, match their body language and intensity, and avoid diminishing or belittling them. Keeping an open dialogue and helping the child feel safe are essential steps in managing negative emotions. Common struggles that parents face include fear of upsetting the parent, hiding feelings or acting out, lack of self-regulation, difficulty expressing emotions, inability to problem solve, poor coping mechanisms, unresolved trauma, and withdrawal from social settings.

Strategies for dealing with negative emotions include acknowledging and validating feelings, teaching self-regulation skills, creating a safe space for expression, problem solving techniques, finding positive coping mechanisms, and processing unresolved trauma. With these strategies in place, parents can help their children learn how to manage their own negative emotions in a healthy way.

Parents must remember that it takes time to build trust with their children and create an environment where they feel safe to express themselves. By using these strategies consistently over time, parents can help their children learn how to cope with negative emotions in a healthy way.

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