Big Feelings

Sometimes children struggle managing their emotions.
They are still learning to express themselves and need to learn what brings on big feelings.


Poppy struggles with big feelings. She often lets her worries build up and then they come out like an explosion.

Working with her family, she is learning to manage big feelings with strategies and tools to help her keep big feelings from being the boss of her.

Does this sound like your child?

Children are in the process of learning to manage their emotions. Their struggles with worries can get so “big” that sometimes their emotions have nowhere else to go but to explode.

Working with her family, she is learning to manage big feelings with strategies and tools to help her keep big feelings from being the boss of her.


They are trying to tell you that they can’t manage their emotions anymore.

The do’s and don’ts of managing big feelings:

  • Don’t punish them for their emotional explosions. They can’t control their behavior and often feel very badly afterwards that their emotions caused them to lose control. They might even find it a bit frightening.
  • Don’t try to lecture them while their emotions are exploding. The goal is to de-escalate the situation. Trying to reason with them, or reprimanding them, while their emotions are out of control will only cause them to escalate.
  • This is not a form of manipulation. They are crying out for help. They cannot control their emotions and need your assistance.
  • Stay calm. Be a safe secure resource for them while they try and get their emotions under control.
  • Don’t let them hurt themselves or anyone else. Make sure they are safe while they try and calm down.

Where to start: Tracking Behaviour

Tracking behaviour is an extremely important tool when learning to help your child manage big feelings.
When did the explosion happen?
What led up to the explosion? Tracking also helps tell a story of where your child is struggling if you need to seek medical or educational support.
Track your child’s behaviour in the chart below.

What to remember:

You are the best role model your child has to learn how to manage their feelings. How do you react to daily stresses? How do you manage stressful situations?

Before you start to coach your child’s emotional regulation to control big feelings, make sure you are able to manage your own emotions when situations get stressful!

Watch this video on Big Feelings

With an introduction and follow-up by Dr. King at The Mary J. Wright Child and Youth Development Clinic, Faculty of Education, Western University.

Dr. King outlines two scenarios around managing big feelings. Watch both videos afterward on Big Feelings.

How to turn this situation around→

✔ Stay calm
✔ Validate how your child is feeling
✔ Acknowledge your child is having a hard time
✔ Create a safe and secure environment for your child to manage their emotions
✔Have a plan

Being a parent is a complex thing. It involves trying to feel what our children are feeling and trying to know just how much to do to help them with what they cannot yet do for themselves.

~ Mr. Rogers

Creating a Plan

  • Build a plan to prepare for a situation where your child might struggle with Big Feelings.
  • Creating a plan helps you and your child work together to manage Big Feelings in the future.
  • Print off the plan on the kids page ( BIG FEELINGS) and come up with a plan together.
  • Take the plan with you (print off or on your phone) so you can remember what you need to do when emotions start to rise. Don’t forget to bring Poppy for some extra support!

You can use this plan to explain to family, friends or care givers how you and your child are working together to overcome big feelings. Use it to communicate to your child’s school or family doctor too!

Things to remember when building a plan:

  • Address the problem. Validate their feelings. Tell them how you are feeling about the situation.
  • Get creative. Listen to their suggestions.
  • Print off the plan and post it or take it with you so everyone remembers what they need to do.
    Print off the plan and post it or take it with you so everyone remembers what they need to do.
  • What are the important things to remember? The key parts of the plan?
  • Determine the tough point. When does it get difficult? What are we going to do when that happens?
  • Yes to success! Maybe next time? What do we need to do differently, or do we just need practice? Even the best plans need practice sometimes!

The Plan (example)

Working together to:

Manage Big Feelings

What’s the problem?

Prep- what will today look like:

  • After school we will head to the park
  • We will have a snack and play with our friends
  • Parent and child will take time when we arrive at the park to go over their day and see how they are feeling
  • How many carrots full does the child feel?
  • Was it a good day? Bad Day?
  • Establish if child needs a break before joining friends on playground
  • Parent will decide when it’s time to go home

en Big Feelings start

How can we solve it?

Parent- what will be my role in this plan:

  • Establish child’s mood
  • Ask questions but also listenDetermine if emotions are under control or getting big
  • Be ready to support child or shut down park visit if big feelings start to grow
  • Give child space to work through feelings until they can’t
  • Validate their feelings, remind them they are safe

March 18. 2024

What is the solution?

Child- what will my role be in this plan:

  • Make sure I understand plan. Am I Ok with the plan?
  • Be open to talking about your day
  • How many “carrots does it feel like you’ve eaten?
  • Let parent know when the feelings are starting to get big
  • Take a break
  • f big feelings start, find parent, watch Poppy videos (kids library), go through plan

Check out these strategy libraries as well →

? #1: Emotional Regulation
? #2: Self-Regulation
? #4: Problem Solving and Change
? #6: Anxiety

The activities and videos and these libraries can help with Big Feelings.

Now It’s your turn!

  • Don’t forget to collaborate with your child and validate their feelings
  • Go to the kids page and help your child work through the activities in the strategy library #Big Feelings << When big feelings happen >>
  • Use the Poppy videos to support and work with your child as they learn to manage big feelings


This is your chance to work with your child to come up with a plan for next time. Work through the activities on this kids page together. They have been designed to help you start a conversation. Come up with a plan that works for everyone.

The important thing is you are trying and you’re working together.