How can I help my son work through his big feelings?
Many children feel big emotions, which can lead to tantrums and fits when they’re upset. For parents wanting to equip their children with healthy coping mechanisms to better handle big emotions, read more from expert Emily Louange.
My 6-year-old is a highly sensitive kid who often experiences big feelings. Lately, he’s taken to throwing things when he’s angry. We’ve talked about how destructive behavior is not okay and have discussed things he can do what he is feeling angry, such as deep breathing, screaming into a pillow, hitting his punching bag, stomping his feet, etc. But when the big feelings are felt in the moment, he seems only to want to cause destruction. What else can we do to help him through these moments of intense anger?
Thank you for your question! First and foremost, kudos to you for providing your son with some options to help him through his big feelings. It definitely takes time, but it sounds like you are off to a great start.
Secondly, I want to say that being sensitive is such an amazing trait. Too often young children who are sensitive, especially boys, may be labeled as over-sensitive. But don’t let this fool you. In time and with nurturing, yours on will build the tools to better cope with his strong emotions and be very well attuned to how others are feeling. In fact, highly sensitive children are more than likely to become happy, successful adults.
This is not to say that there are not frustrating moments when you feel your child is not handling his feelings in the most constructive way. The good news is that sensitive kids are most responsive to and have the most to gain from your support and encouragement. So let’s start with some tips.
Name the emotions. Start having conversations with your son about different emotions—both positive emotions and negative emotions. Have this conversation when he is feeling calm and ready to talk. Work with him to recognize all the different emotions people feel and inquire how he is feeling throughout the day, even when he is in the best mood. Name your emotions and discuss how you are feeling as well. This can be a good starting point for teaching him how to regulate how he’s feeling.
Show empathy. Showing your son empathy when he’s feeling upset is an important component of his learning to regulate his emotions. By reflecting your son’s emotions through ongoing conversations, when he’s both upset and happy, you are teaching him that his feelings are justified. You are there to support him. And by modeling empathy, you are teaching empathy, which may support him in handling tough situations.
Practice mindfulness. Find ways to practice mindfulness with your son. Build this into your practice, something you two do together every day. Once it’s a routine, this could be something he turns to when feeling those big emotions. CareNectar has a great activity called the 5-4-3-2-1 Mindfulness Technique for Children. It’s a great exercise that you and your family can do together.
Additionally, we have a toolkit on Managing Emotional Regulation in Children, which includes other activities that may be useful for you and your son. Thank you again for sharing your question. You are on the right track. Be sure to continue empowering him—and remember, we are here for you!
Meet The Expert
Emily has held positions as a care provider for over two decades. She’s managed care as a nanny, home health aide, and as a RN after earning her Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing. When she became a working mother, she was astonished by the insufficient systems in place to support and guide families. She strongly believes that our children and those who care for them deserve better support and solutions. Called to do something to help; she founded a childcare networking platform, Via The Village, served on the Board of Directors for the US Nanny Association, and helped start CareNectar!