Helping Children with Feelings

1) To help children with their feelings:


Acknowledge their feelings with a word – “Oh” … “Mmmm…. I see.”

Give their feelings a name e.g. You’re so mad!

Use fantasy e.g. You wish you could find the right toy….

Try to stick to reflecting a child’s feelings – and try not to give advice or to solve the child’s problem. They want to be understood in the way that they feel.

Imagine you are a mirror and you are copying or “mirroring” your child (much like an observer). Try and describe what you SEE and try and imagine what feeling is under what you are seeing.

For example: Your child is playing in the sandpit at home. You tell him/her not to throw sand at the other children, and he/she decides to throw sand at you.

Your response: “I know you are angry…. But I am not for throwing sand at…. You can throw it in the sandpit or in the bucket.” (Your tone of voice is very important here, you need to be firm – not in a way that will frighten a child – but in a way that they will take notice of what you are saying).

Do not shout at the child as this will be seen as “attacking” and they will probably not take on board what you are saying. Also try not to threaten the child e.g. “If you don’t stop throwing sand at the children – we will be going home and we wont come back again!” (This again will only frighten children and make them more anxious).

Giving an alternative is a great way for them to do something but in a safe way (e.g. throwing the sand in the sandpit or in the bucket is better than a child throwing sand at other children).


A – Acknowledge the feeling (e.g. angry, frustrated, excited etc.)
L – Set the limit (e.g. I am not for hitting, I am not for throwing sand at or the floor is not for throwing paint at etc.)
T – Target an alternative (e.g. You can throw the sand in the sandpit or in the bucket) – a “safer” option.

If the child does not stop the behaviour (e.g. Throwing sand at you) – You can say “I know you are mad at me… but if you don’t stop throwing sand at me – when we go home I will put you on the thinking chair) – use “thinking chair” instead of naughty step and try not to call their behaviour “naughty.” Remember to always acknowledge how they are feeling first before telling them what will happen.

Lastly, when you get home (if they didn’t stop throwing sand at you) – FOLLOW THROUGH with what you have told them and put the child on the “Thinking Chair” (1 minute per year of age e.g. 2 years old = 2 minutes on the chair). This creates predictability and security for a child – because they know what to expect next.

Thinking Chair – should be in a small room (maybe dining room or lounge) where there are no toys, TV’s, games, books etc – try and face the chair towards a blank wall or corner so that they have no distractions and have to try and think about what they did.

When time is up, come and explain why they are on the chair and accept an apology.

“Child’s name…. I put you on the thinking chair because you carried on throwing sand at me when I told you I wasn’t for throwing sand at….. Is there anything you want to say to me?

When they say “Sorry” – hug and kiss them and FORGIVE THEM. Moving on is very important and don’t hold grudges as this will be felt by the child.

Try not to say, “You were on the chair because you were so mad at me!” You don’t want your child to hide his/her feelings – you want to ACCEPT their feelings, but not the BEHAVIOUR.

2) To engage cooperation:

1) Describe what you see or describe the problem

2) Give information

3) Say it with a word

4) Talk about your feelings

1) Describe the problem: e.g. Child is filling up the bath with water and it is about to overflow.

Your response: Child’s name, the water in the bath is getting close to the top – Instead of: You’re so irresponsible! You always do this! Do you want us to have a flood?

2) Give information: e.g. Milk is used and then left on the table.

Your response: Milk goes sour if it stays out of the fridge –
Instead of: Who left the milk out of the fridge?

3) Say it with a word: e.g. Children are not going to have a bath and are clowning around.

Your response: Girls, Bath! (one word)

4) Talk about your feelings e.g. Child keeps pulling on your sleeve or following you around the house.

Your response: I know you want some time with me… but I don’t like having my sleeve pulled… or I don’t like being followed around the house… We can have some time together a bit later…

3) Alternatives to Punishment:

1) Point out a way to be helpful
2) Express strong disapproval (without attacking character)
3) State your expectations
4) Give a choice
5) Take action

E.G. You are in the grocery shop with your son and he is clowning around and running up and down the aisles.

Point out a way to be helpful:
It would really help if you picked out 3 big lemons for us.

Express strong disapproval:
I don’t like you running around the shops

State your expectations and give a choice:
You can choose to either sit in the trolley or you can choose to walk – which do you choose?

Take action:
Either remove the child from the shop or reflect on their choice.

E.g. I see you chose to sit in the trolley. (If you remove them – BEFORE doing so -give them a warning about taking them home to the thinking chair)

KITES Charity UK: How do children cope with the death of a loved one? Part 2.

How to support a child through times of loss or grief:

  • Give your child truthful information – sometimes it may be tempting to shield your child from unpleasant facts, particularly if you are in pain yourself, but in fact if you do not tell your child the truth, they may build a fantasy of what has happened and they may easily come to the conclusion that it was their fault.
  • Inform your child’s school what has happened so that they may support your child through this difficult time.
  • Give your child reassurance -encourage them to believe in their ability to recover.
  • Help your child to understand that dead means “not living.” Use age-appropriate language and factual works like “death” or “dying.” Remember that younger children often think that death and sleeping are the same and they may need to be reassured that if they go to sleep, they will wake up again.
  • Give your child opportunities to say goodbye. Let your child go to the funeral and/or the cemetery. Explain to the child beforehand what to expect.
  • Allow your child to talk about what has happened even if it feels painful. Often children become anxious about expressing grief because they don’t want to upset you.
  • Be prepared to answer the same questions over and over again – children will take longer to understand what has happened than adults.
  • Give your child opportunities to express his/her feelings and reflect those feelings back to them. For example,  ”I know you are very angry that Grandpa is sick. You are scared he is going to die.”
  • Stick to normal daily routines and don’t forget to keep hugging and holding your child – they will need lots of reassurance and affection.
  • Be creative – Allow your child to make something that will keep the loved one’s memory alive. This could be a photo album, a story about the person, or a memory box with a few precious objects in. These memories can then be returned to at a less painful time.
  • Young children almost always display magical thinking during times of loss or death. Therefore you need to clearly convey the message – “It was not your fault. You are not bad or unlovable. There is nothing you could have done to change things.”
  • Avoid using euphemisms or figures of speech like “went to sleep” or “passed away.” Remember a child may take these phrases literally and become fearful of what they mean.
  • Make time to mark special times that were special before the bereavement and also to enjoy life!
  • Empower your child – ask them what they want.
  • Don’t take control away from the child – let them make decisions about what they want to do.
  • Try to share your grief with your child without “dumping” it onto them.
  • Let them have contact with people with whom they are close to.


An example of a Memory Box:








End of Part 2.

KITES Charity UK: How do children cope with the death of a loved one? Part 1.

KITES at St. Joseph’s Hospice in the UK provides crucial play therapy services for children that have been affected by bereavement. They usually get involved after someone has died, but sometimes they will get involved beforehand when someone in the family has a life-threatening illness.

I found their website information particularly interesting and helpful, and I felt that I should share it with families out there:

1) Children’s responses to loss:

Children will often feel numbness, disbelief, guilt, panic, denial, despair and anger after the death of a family member. They might be in shock and denial right after receiving the bad news and wander around searching for their loved one if they have died.

Children may experience disturbed sleep, fear of the dark, bad dreams and bedwetting. They might regress to earlier stages of their development and start behaving in a more ‘childish’ way. They may feel angry and question why this thing has happened to them. They may question any professionals who may have been involved in the care of the person that is ill or has died.

Children may change their eating habits – they may eat more or less. They may become restless or withdrawn. They may become clingy and fear any separation from their carer.

Children may feel run down, tired or forgetful. They may catch more illnesses than usual.

Children of all ages, but particularly young children may ‘play out’ their feelings rather than talking about them.

Young children in particular may feel abandoned rather than sad.

End of Part 1

Psychologies Magazine Article (February/March 2011 Pages 42 – 45) “After Divorce: Creating Two Happy Homes”

I recently read this article and I found it particularly interesting and thought it would be great to share with my readers.

The key ideas that stuck with me after reading the article were:

1) Children need security and predictability after divorce, and
2) In order for children to feel safe and secure, the basic expectations of children need to be the same in each home.

So often children are caught up in the middle of their parent’s divorce. Sometimes one parent can bad mouth the other parent in front of the child, and this kind of communication can really make a child feel hurt and angry.

Children love their parents unconditionally, and it is really important to remember that, and not to “destroy” their love, as this will only cause doubts and mistrust, as well as the child feeling “broken in half.”

I recently read a wonderful children’s book about a family going through a divorce. In this story, the little girl had a dog that ALWAYS stayed with her wherever she went. No matter which house she stayed at, or where she went, or what parent she saw that weekend, her dog always stayed with her. This made me think of how important it is for children to have familiar toys, and/or pets with them at each house – so that both homes can feel like home to them.

Fred Stays with Me! [Hardback]
Author(s):Nancy Coffelt
Illustrated by:Tricia Tusa

Published by Little, Brown & Company
Published 5 June 2008
32 pages
Country: United States
EAN: 9780316882699

An Introduction to Play Therapy

This is a fantastic video and it gives a great introduction to play therapy…. what it is and how it can help children who are unable to “verbalise” what is going on in their lives…..

The play therapists seen in this video are all qualified and accredited with BAPT (British Association of Play Therapists). Some of them are actually my lecturers and tutors from my M.A and it is amazing to see them in action….. ENJOY! :)

Welcome to the Play2Grow Website!

Thank you for taking the time to visit the Play2Grow website. I hope that you find the information on this website informative and beneficial, whether you are a parent, guardian, teacher, student, or a trained professional.

On this website, you will find information about Play Therapy: what it is, why it is helpful, and how it can benefit children struggling with a variety of difficulties in their lives.