Watching your child suffer in any way can be extremely tough. And whilst certain types of pain like cuts and bruises can be fixed with a band-aid and a bit of TLC, emotional pain can be harder to tackle.

So what exactly can you do to help your child deal with sadness or anger after a traumatic or difficult experience?

Talk, listen, acknowledge and empathise

To understand their thoughts and feelings, you need to listen. Ask your child about their day, ask about their feelings, try and understand what triggers their sadness or anger. If you struggle to get your child to open up to you or even talk to you in the first place, try asking open questions. An open question is any question that cannot be answered with a one-word answer. Asking these types of questions will encourage your child to get talking and will help you uncover the root of their issues.

When your child does eventually start to open up, make sure you acknowledge their feelings, even if you don’t necessarily understand or agree with them. Acknowledging their feelings will help them feel validated and heard which will encourage them to keep opening up to you.

Be patient

If your child is experiencing continuous anger or sadness, then it will take time and patience to resolve. Don’t expect to be able to fix things overnight and don’t get frustrated when progress is slow. It’s important to stay calm and show your child that you are there to support them no matter what. Eventually, when they feel safe enough to do so, they will begin to open up.

Use playtime productively

With younger children, playtime can be used as a means of understanding, expressing and resolving their feelings. For example, if your child is experiencing anger, try getting them to express this anger with art or another fun activity. You can give their anger a name and ask them to draw it. This can help them express their anger in a productive, controlled and therapeutic way.

In slightly older children, sport can also be used as a means of releasing anger and frustration in a healthy way. It also releases endorphins which can have an extremely positive impact on their mental health.

Stay positive

Positive feedback is key to your child’s development. Reassuring them that their feelings are valid and that they are making good progress is key to resolving their feelings.

But staying positive should also be a mindset for both you and your child. As an adult, one way of dealing with overwhelming sadness is by writing a list of 3 things that you are thankful for at the beginning or the end of every day. This helps you remember some of the positive elements of your life rather than focusing on the negative things.

The same can be done with children through playtime and story time. Get them to tell you what they learnt at school or ask them to draw their favourite person for you. By actively asking them to bring things they enjoy and like into their play time, you are enabling them to think about and focus on the positive things in their life.

Teach coping mechanisms

You might not be with your child every time they feel angry or overwhelmed. Actively teaching them methods in order to cope with these feelings will help them stay in control when you are not around. Some tips for children coping with anger are:

  1. Recognise the signs of anger (a racing heart, feeling hot, tense muscles etc)
  2. Evaluate how angry you are (give it a number from 1 to 10)
  3. Cool your body down by:
    1. breathing slowly
    2. counting from 1 to 10
    3. take time out in a quiet place
    4. go for a walk
    5. draw your feelings
  4. Tell an adult that you are feeling angry and need to take some time out

Giving your child a method and process in order to deal with their emotions helps give them a feeling of control over the situation.

Get professional help

If your child is experiencing continuous sadness or anger and you are unable to resolve it by talking and playing at home, contact your family doctor. They will be able to offer you guidance and direct you to the appropriate services to help your child process their feelings.

Asking experienced professionals to help you and your child understand these difficult emotions is not a sign of weakness. It is, in fact, a sign of strength.

And finally… don’t be too hard on yourself

When watching your child experience unpleasant or difficult feelings, it’s easy to blame yourself or think that you have done something wrong. But beating yourself up over things is not useful to you or your child. Be kind to yourself and make sure you also get time to relax and process your own emotions.

There’s nothing wrong with asking friends, family or even teachers for a bit of assistance. At best, they may have experienced similar situations with their own children and can give you some useful advice. Or, at the very least, they can offer you a bit of much-needed support.

So when it comes to supporting your child through hardship, be patient, stay positive and make sure that you too are getting the support and reassurance that you need.

What are your tips for bringing a troubled child out of their shell? Tell us in the comments below.


  • My 3yo grandson is a bit introverted, which is strange because he’s been at daycare since he was 5 months old, I expected him to be less shy

    Reply


  • Be patient and give of your time. Don’t ignore your child because of social media, ignore social media for your child. Talk to your child, hug your child and show them you love them.

    Reply


  • Thank you for this. I have a speech delayed almost 4yr old. I have been reading some great books about emotions lately and she has been great now at telling us what emotion she is feeling. But still struggles with telling us the why and trying to self regulate her feelings. We are working on it.

    Reply


  • My motto is to be patience. My son has his own out burst, one of us have to be in the right mind otherwise the kettle will burst.
    Music, time out, leave alone for a bit but keep a watch out is what we use at home. My son goes for a bike ride and it seems to help as he comes back a little relaxed.
    As for me, a breather outside, music and a book helps.

    Reply


  • Patience if definitely important. That and being there for your child.

    Reply


  • Some really good tips here for parents who are at a loss on how to help their child. Thanks for a great article

    Reply


  • Sometimes children tend to be sad if they are tired or don’t like being around people much, especially strangers.
    Some with anger problems have sometimes been bullied and “Let off steam” at home rather than being told off outside of home for it. It can be hard to get children to talk about any issue. If they are school age they may tell you nothing happened. You may need to ask the question or change the method of discussion in a few different ways before you succeed and give any help.

    Reply


  • good advice

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  • Some good tips here. We have a feelings chart (with emotji’s) and a feelings thermometer on the wall with green for Go, orange for Be Careful and red for Stop. On another poster hanging on the wall I have calm down strategies. Another thing what we do is daily one on one “special time” this can be as short as 15 minutes.

    Reply


  • Very great advice – sometimes they just need to. Know you are there for them

    Reply


  • Some great practical advice but often making yourself follow it can be difficult

    Reply


  • Empathy and patience can work wonders.

    Reply

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