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How to help kids cope when they get upset

By Understood Team

Kids who struggle with self-control can react in unpredictable or even explosive ways to everyday things. To manage these feelings, they need to use coping strategies. They often need to be taught these calming strategies. And over time, kids learn to turn to them on their own.

One of the most important coping strategies to teach kids is to name their feelings. Strong emotions can be scary for kids and fuel strong reactions. But when kids can talk about how they’re feeling and what’s causing it, their emotions can feel more manageable. 

Offer words kids can use to describe their feelings, like mad, sad, frustrated, anxious, worried, or embarrassed. If kids struggle with language, they can use a “How am I feeling?” visual chart to identify emotions.

Keep in mind that your behavior affects how kids cope, too. Kids need to know that you understand what they’re going through. Responding to kids with empathy takes practice. But it can make a big difference in what kids hear and feel, and how willing they are to keep working on things that are hard.

Dive deeper

Finding triggers

When you pinpoint what triggers kids’ stress, you can make changes to help them cope.

For example, if kids yell when you tell them to turn off the TV, offer a five-minute warning before shutting it off. If they have a hard time with transitions between activities, try to give them downtime between each one. 

If you’re unsure of what triggers are making kids upset, observe their behaviors and look for patterns .

The importance of seeking help

When you ask for help from others, you’re showing kids a healthy coping strategy: getting support when you need it.

Here are some examples for parents and caregivers: Ask a friend or tutor to help your child with math if you’re hitting a wall. Or, if you constantly argue with your child about a specific problem, maybe a relative can help out instead. 

Keep an eye out for signs of anxiety and depression , too. When kids feel anxious or depressed, it’s important to seek out help from a counselor or health care provider.

Next steps

It’s important to talk openly with kids about emotions and coping strategies. 

Parents and caregivers: Get tips for talking about social and emotional issues with your child.  

Educators: Learn more about social-emotional learning , its benefits, and ways to integrate it into your classroom.

Related topics

Managing emotions

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