6 Ways Parents Can Help Kids Navigate Negative Emotions

Taking time to help your child emotionally regulate is investing in their future.

Photo by Jimmy Dean on Unsplash

1. Breathe

It is very easy to be sucked into your child’s emotional windstorm. But you can’t help them navigate their emotions if you’re struggling to navigate yours. You need to be able to approach their feelings calmly.

2. Engage

When emotions go unaddressed, your kids are all on their own to navigate their feelings. These silent moments allow kids to attach their own meaning to negative experiences. But kids don’t have enough life experience or context to fully understand what happened. Without your help, they can create limiting beliefs about themselves like, “I am unlovable” or “I don’t belong here.”

3. Label

Oftentimes, not being able to name or describe an experience attaches more negative meaning to it. This problem is especially prevalent for young children. They often lack the vocabulary necessary to explain what happened to them.

4. Ladder

In a marketing class I took in college, we learned a technique called “laddering.” When interviewing research participants, you start with a question. Then you “ladder” by following up their answer with a “why” question related to their response. Then you do it again and again with each new answer.

5. Normalize

After understanding what your child is feeling, normalize their emotions. In this case with my daughter, I told her, “It’s okay to feel nervous. Everyone gets nervous sometimes.”

6. Encourage

After helping your child navigate their negative emotions, find ways to encourage them. Negative experiences and feelings can leave your child’s self-esteem a little bruised. Even if you did talk with them about it.


Emotions can feel big and overwhelming. And with a limited understanding of the world, children may struggle to make sense of them. Your role is to give them the tools and context they need to understand what they are experiencing and feeling. With your help, they can process their emotions and bounce back from negative experiences.

Navigating adult life and writing about what I learn. My focuses are personal development, relationships, parenting, and writing.

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