Acknowledging Feelings

The key to helping your child feel understood is to acknowledge his feelings.
Follow these steps to get more in tune with your child:

  • Label the feeling: For younger children, the simpler label
    you offer the better. Use words like mad, happy, sad and scared. For older
    children, more specific words help them to pinpoint the exact emotion:
    disappointed, worried and embarrassed.
  • State the reason for the feeling. Make your best guess as
    to why your child feels as he does. For example, say, "It looks like you’re mad
    because Mom said you can’t have dessert today."
  • Don’t judge your child. Your child needs to know that it is
    okay to express emotion. However, at times you may need to teach your child how
    to express his feelings in ways that are healthy and not hurtful to


Do’s and Don’ts


  1. Support your child. Give physical support (hugs, kisses)
    and verbal support by acknowledging your child’s feelings.
  2. Help your child understand why she is upset. Help her to
    connect feelings with experiences. Ask open-ended questions about what caused
    the anger, sadness, fear, etc.
  3. Give your child space. She may need to be taken out of the
    upsetting situation briefly to find a way to calm down.
  4. Encourage your child to use words to express her feelings.
    These should be words used to describe what your child feels rather than words
    used to hurt others.
  5. Teach your child empathy. When your child is angry or sad,
    remind her that others often feel the same way. Help her think of ways she might
    help someone if they were feeling the same emotion. She will develop empathy for
    others and may find ways to help herself in the process.


  1. Don’t try to fix it all. Allow your child to find ways to
    problem-solve and calm herself. She may need time to figure out the best way to
    do so.
  2. Don’t bribe your child to get her to stop feeling upset.
    You don’t want to short-circuit your child’s experience. She needs to learn how
    to manage her feelings over the long term.
  3. Don’t distract your child from her feelings. By acting as
    if nothing has happened or avoiding negative feelings, we prevent children from
    learning how to deal with them properly.
  4. Don’t punish your child. Scolding a child for experiencing
    negative feelings will not only make her feel worse but it will discourage her
    from having those feelings — or being open about them. Instead of discouraging
    the experience of these emotions, it is crucial to encourage the proper
    expression of them.
  5. Don’t allow your child to hurt others with their negative
    . Children can say insulting things and, at times, physically
    hurt others when upset. Teach your child that it is never okay to harm