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How to Talk to Your Kids About Their Feelings



As parents, we want our homes to be a place where our children feel comfortable asking us anything and talking about everything. We also want our children to know they have permission to feel whatever they need to. Children feel secure when they know they are not the strongest force in the room and that you, as the parent, are a safe place for them to process what’s going on in their hearts. 

The world’s voice is loud, but we can remind our children that our Heavenly Father’s voice is stronger. Hebrew 4:16 encourages us this way, “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” As you and your Church family together point your children to Jesus, we pray they will come to Him with their feelings and entrust their hearts into His faithful hands. 

To help our children understand and navigate what’s going on in their hearts and minds, it’s helpful for them to be able to learn to name their feelings, understand the “why” behind their feelings, and know what to do with their feelings. 

For our children to properly express their hearts, they must first expand their feelings vocabulary. We can teach those words as we go about everyday life—when we’re asking about a school day or a playdate or when we’re getting to the root of what caused an argument between siblings. Feelings charts are also an excellent resource to keep in the car or the kitchen for easy access to help connect outward expressions of inward experience. 

At times, the feelings part of a child’s brain does not work together with the thinking part of their brain, often leading to a variation of a tantrum. That outburst tells us we need to help them regulate their feelings by engaging their thinking brain and their feelings brain properly.

Here are a few ideas for ways to help children reset and regulate their brains: 

  1. Take a few deep breaths.
  2. Do jumping jacks.
  3. Go take a break in their room; this is not necessarily a time out, but a way for them to cool down.
  4. Ask them an off-subject question can distract from feelings and engage the cognitive part of the child’s brain.

Once the moment has de-escalated, circle back to listen to your child. Repeat what you heard your child say to you, “What I am hearing you say is…” When you feel like you have a good grasp on what’s happening in your child’s heart, sometimes you can share a perspective that changes their outlook. Some feelings can be based on misunderstandings, and you may be able to help your child see a truth that shifts how they feel. 

If hurtful words or actions erupted in the midst of the outburst, there may be some restoration needed with a sibling or friend. Proverbs 18:21 says, “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” As we remind children of how their words have the power of death, we can simultaneously speak life into the character of our children, calling them to more with statements such as, “You are kind, but those words were not very kind. Let’s try saying that again.”

Sometimes our child’s behavior indicates something bigger going on in their heart. This is a good moment to get one-on-one time to check in with your child, even while driving in the car, walking, or swinging on swings together.

Create space for anything that is troubling your child to bubble to the surface as you ask simple questions that can lead to more conversation, such as:

  1. What is something that made you smile today?
  2. What is something that was hard today?
  3. What is something you are proud of that you did today?
  4. Who did you play with on the playground?

Sometimes our children just need to feel connected and heard. Other times they just need a hug, a nap, or a snack. 

We are God’s ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20) to our children, representing him and pointing our children back to him. From this objective posture, we do not need to ride an emotional rollercoaster with our children. Instead, we can remain rooted in the steadfast grace of Jesus, asking Him for insight as we raise our children. 

Ultimately, we want our children to learn that feelings are good and that God gave us feelings. Children can be safe to learn and grow within the good and reliable boundaries of our home. Our children are loved unconditionally by you and Jesus, and nothing they can say or do can change their status as accepted and beloved. 


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Scripture References

  • Hebrews 4:16
  • Proverbs 18:21
  • 2 Corinthians 5:20
Emily Gross Emily Gross works on staff at Passion City Church on our Family Ministries team, where she takes great joy in investing in the children and parents of our House. She met her husband Jake at Auburn University, and they live in Marietta, GA, with their three teenage daughters and yellow lab Sam. In this loud and full season of life, most afternoons and weekends find them at their girls' sporting events, driving carpools, and feeding people. Sam tags along as often as possible.