Teaching Children Emotions and Coping Skills

The role of the caregiver is to support the child to become aware of their emotions and guide them through the use of coping skills. Feelings of anger, frustration, sadness, excitement or fears can be overwhelming to any child. Regaining a sense of calm can be challenging for both the child and the caregiver.

Emotional triggers can be:

  • Dealing with new situations and changes.
  • Resisting taking tempting objects.
  • Expressing emotions.
  • Having to be a part of both small and larger groups.
  • Dealing with conflicts with peers.
  • Dealing with things they want but can’t have.
  • Following rules and expectations.
  • Following daily routines.
  • Letting go of personal belongings.
  • Coping with winning and losing.
  • Overwhelming events that happen at home.
  • Dealing with busy time schedules.

Learning emotions and how to control them with coping skills is often referred to as self-regulation. Self-regulation is the ability to monitor and control behaviours, emotions, actions and thoughts. Empathy is the foundation to self-regulation. When a child is treated with empathy they gain a sense of belonging and security that leads to positive relationships that allows them to be receptive in learning coping skills.

Supporting a child in learning coping skills:

  • Understand the child’s temperament, abilities and stressors that could lead to overwhelming feelings.
  • Be close to the child to guide them by:
    • Helping them recognize what they are feeling.
    • Describing their body language (e.g., your face is red, you look mad; you are jumping up and down because you are so happy and excited; you are hiding under the table, you are scared).
    • Validating and reassuring their feelings and thoughts as all emotions are normal.
    • Supporting them in expressing their emotions by using words, visuals or books, by making faces in the mirror, modelling, talking about it and drawing.
  • Teaching and modelling different ways to promote calmness such as:
    • Walking away.
    • Taking a break.
    • Using relaxation techniques.
    • Talking things through.

Jocelyne Desbiens and Brooks Hachey, Behaviour Consultants
Children’s Integration Support Services


MindMasters 2: The MindMasters series are mental health promotion resources that help children to master emotional regulation through relaxation, positive thinking and mindfulness based techniques.