Fostering emotional regulation and self-compassion in children

New resources give parents insight into how to help children understand and manage their emotions and show kindness to themselves.

Strong emotions like excitement, frustration, anger, embarrassment and shame can be overwhelming for children. New evidence-based resources from give parents tips on how they can help children understand their emotions, calm down and show self-compassion. It can be helpful to share these resources with parents who are seeking support dealing with strong emotions in their children.

Understanding and managing emotions

Understanding and managing emotions is important for development and wellbeing. Children who can understand and manage their emotions are more likely to express their emotions in appropriate ways and bounce back after feeling strong emotions. This is good for children because it helps them learn, make friends and become independent.

Parents can give their children plenty of opportunities to practise understanding emotions. For example, they can:

  • offer the language to help children label their emotions
  • help children work out how their body feels when experiencing an emotion and notice the early physical and behavioural signs that emotions are building up
  •  give children play or other activities to help explore their emotions.

Parents can also help children manage emotions when they’re old enough.

See this article on understanding and managing emotions for more information and ideas.

Calming down

Learning to calm down is a key part of understanding and managing emotions. Children need help calming down from strong emotions because their brains are still developing and they don’t have all the right skills yet. Other things like environmental circumstances can also affect their ability to calm down.

For toddlers, ‘time-in’ works well as a calming down strategy. This involves parents staying close, offering comfort, and reassuring children that their feelings are understood.

For older children, parents can work through ‘five steps’ to helping children calm down. These steps include 1) noticing the emotion 2) naming the emotion 3) pausing and saying nothing 4) offering support 5) helping their child problem solve.

See these articles on calming down for toddlers, calming down for children and calming down for teenagers for more details on these strategies and steps.


Self-compassion is about treating yourself kindly when things don’t go well. It’s showing yourself the same warmth, care and understanding you’d give to someone you care about. Self-compassion positively affects mental health – it can reduce the likelihood of problems like anxiety, depression, eating disorders or substance abuse.

Self-compassion is something children need to learn and practise. Parents can build self-compassion in their children by letting them know it’s OK to find things hard or be upset, and that everyone makes mistakes. Parents can also encourage children to say kind words to themselves – for example, ‘I’ve done my best’, ‘Everyone finds new things hard’ and ‘I’m a good person’.

It’s good for parents to role model self-compassion too.

See these articles on self-compassion for children, self-compassion for teenagers and self-compassion for parents for more information.

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