Strong Feelings

Strong Feelings is a 6-part series designed to help adults understand and respond to children’s strong feelings using emotion coaching. Supporting children’s emotions helps them feel better, manage their behavior, and feel closer to caring adults. Each video reviews a different aspect of emotion coaching. We’ve also provided additional resources to learn more about children’s strong feelings and to talk about emotions with children.

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What is emotion coaching?

We all want our children to be happy. However, we know that children are sometimes going to feel scared, sad, or really mad about something. That’s normal. The strong emotions of kids (and the strong (or “attention-getting) behaviors that sometimes come with these emotions) can be difficult to understand and even harder to deal with as parents. “What is emotion coaching?” is the first episode in the Strong Feelings series on emotion coaching for families. In this video, Dr. Anne Clarkson introduces emotion coaching and shares a tool to remember how to emotion coach in any situation.

The goal of this series is to let your child know that everybody has feelings and it is ok to talk about them. Here are fun resources to start those conversations:

  • Book: The Way I Feel by Janan Cain
    • As you read or watch together, pause the video, and talk about how your child might feel the same or different.
  • Social Emotional Skills Tip Sheet
    • Use this sheet as a quick review of emotion coaching and some ways you can talk about strong feelings with your child.

Labeling Strong Feelings

One of the things children hear a lot is that they need to “use their words.” However, children often don’t have words for what is happening inside. In fact, young children might not know whether they are tired, hungry, mad, or sad. We can help children by just teaching them the right words for their feelings. “Labeling Strong Feelings” is the second episode in the Strong Feelings series on emotion coaching for families. In this video, Dr. Anne Clarkson explains how adults can help children label their feelings.

The goal of this series is to let your child know that everybody has feelings and it is ok to talk about them. Here are fun resources to start those conversations.

  • Book: Mad, Mad Bear by Kimberly Gee
    • Ask your child to label the feelings in the book.
  • Book: How Do You Feel by Lizzy Rockwell
    • Act out the feeling with your child as the story is read.
  • Watch: Feelings Have Names from Sesame Street
    • After watching, make different emotion faces with your child and try to guess the feeling.
  • Watch: Naming Feelings from Sesame Street
    • Ask kids to name the feelings they saw. Ask if they felt any of those feelings today. Share a time that you had one of these feelings as a child.

Empathizing With Strong Feelings

A lot of times when we’re angry, sad, scared, embarrassed, or having any strong feeling, we just need to know that somebody else understands what we’re going through. If you can show your children you truly understand and empathize with what is going on with them, they are really going to appreciate that and feel much closer to you. “Empathizing with Strong Feelings” is the third episode in the Strong Feelings series on emotion coaching for families. In this video, Dr. Anne Clarkson describes how to empathize or show children we understand their feelings.

The goal of this series is to let your child know that everybody has feelings and it is ok to talk about them. Here are fun resources to start those conversations.

  • Book: Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall
    • Ask your child how they think Jabari felt. Did he feel better or worse because of what the dad did?
  • Feelings Faces (PDF)
    • Look at these faces with your child and talk about what emotions the faces show. Discuss a time each of you has had these feelings.
    • You can print this image and post it in your home. Sometimes when a child has trouble naming a feeling, they can point to a picture of their feeling instead.
  • Watch:  All About Empathy from Mylemarks
    • Pause the video when they ask “How do you think s/he might be feeling?” and share ideas together. You can ask this question when you are watching any show or reading any book.

Problem Solving Through Strong Feelings

When children are upset, adults often make the mistake of thinking that they have to do all the problem solving. Instead, our role is to help children learn to solve problems on their own. “Problem Solving Through Strong Feelings” is the fourth episode in the Strong Feelings series on emotion coaching for families. In this video, Dr. Anne Clarkson describes how to problem solve when children have strong feelings.

The goal of this series is to let your child know that everybody has feelings and it is ok to talk about them. Here are fun resources to start those conversations.

  • Book:  B is for Breathe Dr. Melissa Boyd
    • Have some fun taking deep breaths. For instance, pretend you are a balloon blowing up and then blow all the air out. Pretend you are smelling hot cocoa and then blowing to cool it off.
  • Book:  The Unbudgeable Curmudgeon by Matthew Burgess
    • Talk about what you can do when you’re feeling mad or grumpy.
  • Watch: Take a Deep Breath! from Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood
    • Learn this short song when both you and your child are calm. Teach your child to sing it when they are feeling mad. You can also sing it when you feel mad.
  • Feelings Thermometer
    • Post the feelings thermometer on your fridge. Use it to talk with elementary aged children about feelings and what we can do when we feel that way.

Everyday Strong Feelings Examples

This video includes examples of how you can use emotion coaching in real life. I’ll tell you what I might say so you get used to how emotion coaching sounds in practice. “Everyday Strong Feelings Examples” is the fifth episode in the Strong Feelings series on emotion coaching for families. In this video, Dr. Anne Clarkson shares examples of how to use emotion coaching in different example scenarios.

The goal of this series is to let your child know that everybody has feelings and it is ok to talk about them. Here are fun resources to start those conversations.

Would you still like to learn more about emotion coaching?

Strong Feelings Examples for Justice-Involved Families

This video looks at situations that are more likely to apply to families with a parent in jail or prison. It’s really hard to have a parent in jail or prison. No matter what you do, you can’t change that reality and make children’s feelings go away. Even so, it’s still really important to show children that you care about and understand their feelings and are willing to do what you can to help. In this video, we’ll share a lot of examples of what you might say to emotion coach in the kinds of situations that come up. “Strong Feelings Examples for Justice Involved Families” is the final episode in the Strong Feelings series on emotion coaching for families. In this video, Dr. Anne Clarkson shares examples of how to use emotion coaching when a child has a parent in jail or prison.

The goal of this series is to let your child know that everybody has feelings and it is ok to talk about them. Here are fun resources to start those conversations.

  • Book: You Weren’t With Me by Chandra Ghosh Ippen
    • How did little rabbit felt when big rabbit was gone? Talk about if you or your child has ever felt this way. Ask your child if there is anything from your time away that they would like to share with you.
  • Activity: Letter Writing Tip Sheet
    • Use the ideas in this tip sheet to stay in contact with your child even when you are apart.

Strong Feelings was developed in 2020 by Dr. Robert Nix, PhD, Pam Wedig-Kirsch, MSE, Mary Huser, MS, and Dr. Anne Clarkson, PhD, MPH. Thanks to Kevin Murphy to technical support. If you have questions you can contact Dr. Clarkson at anne.clarkson@wisc.edu.

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