Child Development

Understanding and Managing Emotions: Children and Teenagers


Empower children and teens with emotional intelligence skills to navigate life’s challenges through our guide on understanding and managing emotions.


Children under 3 years: developing language for emotions

  • When you see your child showing a particular emotion, label it for them and talk about it. For example, ‘You have a big smile on your face. You must be happy to see me’, or ‘You’re crying. You’re frustrated because you can’t play with the fish’.
  • Label the emotions your child sees in you and other people. For example, ‘Auntie’s sad because she misses Grandpa’.
  • Help your child explore emotions through play. Play ideas to develop young children’s emotions include puppet play, singing, reading and messy play.


Children 3-8 years: learning to understand and manage emotions

  • Talk about the emotions that characters in books, TV shows or movies might be experiencing.
  • Show your child how you recognise your emotions and help them to recognise theirs. For example, ‘When I broke that glass, I yelled really loudly. Does that happen to you when you make a mistake and feel angry?’
  • Help your child work out how their body feels when they’re experiencing an emotion. For example, ‘You look nervous. Have you got butterflies in your tummy?’
  • Teach your child ways to calm down from strong emotions like counting to 10.
  • Suggest ways to react to strong emotions – for example, clap your hands when you’re excited, ask for a hug when you’re sad, or squeeze your cushion really hard when you’re angry.


Pre-teens and teenagers: strengthening emotional skills

  • Step in when you can see emotions building up. The sooner your child can spot their emotional changes, the easier it will be for them to stay in control of their behaviour.
  • Help your child notice early behaviour signs of strong emotions. For example, ‘You’re starting to hit that keyboard a bit hard. Do you need to stop for a minute and get some fresh air?’
  • Talk with your child about what you do when you notice the signs that strong emotions are building up. For example, ‘When I start to feel really angry with myself, I focus on something I’m really proud of instead. Would that work for you?’
  • Work with your child on a list of things they could do when they notice strong emotions building up, like going for a run, listening to loud music on their headphones, or meditating.

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