Little Kids - Big Feelings

What you need to know

+Little people can have Big Feelings

+Help your child by “emotion coaching” them through Big Feelings

+Don’t minimize their Big Feelings

Little kids can have Big Feelings. A tiny scrape can feel like a life-threatening emergency (to you and to them!); leaving the park can feel like the end of the world; and no more cookies might be cause for a total government shutdown.

But how to handle these Big Feelings? That’s not always obvious to us, the adults.

Partly because many of us are not comfortable with Big Feelings ourselves.

Partly because we fear that dwelling on “big bad” emotions will somehow make them worse.

Remember that we have had years and years to process our emotions. Some of us have been to therapy to do it, some of us have a solid friend network to talk to. We know what works to calm us down or how to handle a big disappointment or who to call when we just messed something big up at work. And we also (hopefully) know that most things are not a big deal.

Our kids don’t. They are experiencing Big Feelings for the first time (or the first few times). They need help understanding what the heck is going on inside them and how to frame their Big Feelings within the larger context of their lives.

And we, the adults, sometimes need a little help figuring out how to help our little ones. Here are some of the ways Big Feelings show up in little kids:

It might look like over excitement, shouting, jumping, disruption and over exuberance.

It might look like extreme anger at you.

It might look like utter despair.

It might look like a totally huge meltdown to a relatively (very) small problem.

Here are some things you can do when your little one is experiencing a Big Feeling:


  • Acknowledge your child’s big feelings and allow them to happen.

  • “Emotion coach” them through it. Just be with them while they have the Big Feeling.

  • Comfort them and wait it out

  • Distract only after your child has processed enough of the feeling

  • Label the emotion you think your child is feeling:, “oh that’s hard/disappointing/made you mad“


  • Minimize the event by downplaying its importance

  • Tell them their feelings are wrong or that they shouldn’t have them

  • Distract your child INSTEAD of letting them feel their feelings

  • Try to replace the feeling in the moment

Part of learning to be human is learning how to handle Big Feelings when they arise. If we teach our kids early on that they can handle and integrate Big Feelings, they’ll get the message that feelings are a normal, temporary part of life. And that’s just good news for everyone, isn’t it?

All my best,