How to help kids cope when they get upset

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.

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About the author

About the author

The Understood Team is made up of passionate writers and editors. Many of them have kids who learn and think differently.

Reviewed by

Reviewed by

Molly Algermissen, PhD is an associate professor of medical psychology at Columbia University Medical Center and clinical director of PROMISE.


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