How to Help Your Child Deal with Big Feelings

Amy Goodchild photo

January 14, 2020

By Amy Goodchild

Categories: Events, Kids & Families, Spotlight

If you’re a parent of a toddler or preschooler, it’s no secret that little people can have big emotions. Children’s expressions of anger, frustration, sadness, fear, or any number of other strong feelings can sometimes leave parents feeling like they’ve been caught in a whirlwind. As difficult as it can be for parents and other caretakers to feel competent handling their child’s emotions, it’s even more difficult for the child who doesn’t have a clue about what to do with these big, big feelings.


tots dealing with big feelings logo


The Importance of Developing Emotional Intelligence

Research shows that talking about feelings and validating them is the best way to help children develop emotional intelligence. In her article “Why Talking to Kids About Emotions Early Matters”, Sanya Pelini writes that when children develop emotional intelligence, they are “more likely to have better social, academic, and psychological outcomes in the childhood years and beyond.” Additionally, studies have found that “the earlier kids are spoken to about emotions (age three), the better they understand and deal with their own emotions and those of others.”

So we know it’s important for young children to talk about their emotions and learn to manage those emotions, but where can parents and caretakers begin?


How the Library Can Help

Luckily, there are a number of excellent resources available to help children (and their caretakers) develop emotional intelligence and better manage their strong feelings. Many are available here at the Library: DVDs of TV shows such as Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood and Sesame Street, myriad picture books that discuss feelings in a child-friendly way, an Early Literacy Kit about Emotions, and books aimed at parents/caretakers in our Parenting collection.

MGPL also offers a program approximately every two months aimed at kids 3-6 years old called “Tots Dealing with Big Feelings.” This program takes a storytime approach to help kids and their caretakers handle various “big feelings” like impatience, anger, fear, and sadness. We read books, sing songs, and do other activities related to feelings and focus on a different feeling each session. Our goal is for parents and children to leave with some new strategies for handling those difficult emotions and perhaps manage the whirlwind a little bit better.

As a testament to the value of this program, it was included in the School Library Journal article “Little Patrons, Big Ideas”, which covers exemplary innovative programs happening in libraries across the country. You can register for the next session of Tots Dealing with Big Feelings on January 30 on our Events Calendar or at the Youth Info Desk. The theme: Being Patient

Kids’ big emotions aren’t going anywhere, but hopefully, with some support and the right resources, kids and their parents/caretakers can handle those emotions and develop the emotional intelligence to help them succeed throughout childhood.  

Amy Goodchild is a Youth Services Associate at the Morton Grove Public Library.