Caring for Kids’ Emotions Through Transitions

Transitions involving kids and school can be daunting for even the most well-prepared parents and the most well-adapted children. For those of us who are average or have different abilities, it can be stressful, complicated, and worry-inducing. Add in a global pandemic, and we have a generation of children and adolescents whose anxiety and depression symptoms have doubled in the past 18 months and parents who aren’t sure how to help them.

If you have a child who has big feelings or behaviors around school or other transitions, start by recognizing and helping them name their feelings. Beyond “happy,” “sad,” “mad,” and “scared,” help them to see that there are many feelings, and lots of them are combinations of a few – you might check out a feelings wheel to broaden both of your feelings vocabulary. Second, let them know that their feelings are valid – they are understandable and okay, not good/bad/right/wrong. You might say, “I can understand why you feel that way,” or “of course you feel that way, because…” Finally, help them think about something they can do with their feelings. Maybe making an art project would feel good, or running around outside, or listening to music. Think of this not as trying to get rid of the feeling, but expressing or expelling the energy of it in a helpful or productive way.

Here are some questions you can ask your kids that help them reflect on their emotions and abilities more than “How was your day?”:

  • What did you do well today?
  • Were there any times today when you felt ___________ (a feeling you’re working on being able to identify and care for)?
    • What did you do when you felt that way?
  • What did you learn about yourself today?
  • What do you want to try to do differently tomorrow?

It’s also important to recognize that we parents also need to attend to our own emotions as our kids go through things, just as with any major life transition. So, I would invite you to re-read this article and replace the words “your child” with “YOU” to give yourself some ideas of how to care for your own emotional health these and all days. 



Blog by: Jessie Everts, PhD, LMFT
Photo by: Karolina Grabowska from Pexels