How to Train Your Child to Understand, Process & Verbalize Intense Emotions + Tips On Dealing With Parent Guilt & How to Deal With Past Parenting Mistakes

Dr. Caroline Leaf
5 min readApr 22, 2021

In this podcast (episode #275), I speak with clinical psychologist Dr. Becky Kennedy about rethinking the way we raise our children, the importance of saying sorry to our kids, why it is never too late to fix the mistakes we make as parents, how to explain our own emotions to our children, and so much more!

As Dr. Becky wrote in a recent Instagram post, we need to learn how to explain our emotions to our children. On their own,our emotional displays as parents or guardians, do not overwhelm our children. It is okay to have emotions as parents! Every parent has feelings, and our kids see these feelings. This is a good thing, because our children learn from us that emotions are part of being human.

Children often feel overwhelmed, anxious and unsafe when our big emotional displays are partnered with the “aloneness” that comes with not having an adult explain or connect with them and let them know how they are feeling. As parents and guardians, we need to own our feelings and assert our permanence. We should do this by saying something like, “Just like we talk about your big feelings, adults have big feelings too. Sometimes I need a bit of time to myself to care for these feelings in my body. In these moments, I’m not leaving you, I’m not mad, and you didn’t do anything wrong. I’m still your strong papa/mama who loves you.”

When it comes to our emotions, the most important thing is not what we do in the moment when we break down in front of our kids, but the before and after. We need to prep our children and let them know what we are going through and what we are feeling. As Dr. Becky points out, it is not information that scares children, it is the absence of information that scares them. If we don’t say anything to our children when we are struggling, they assume the world is crumbling around them and often blame themselves to regain a sense of control.

The goal as parents is not to not have emotions. Rather, it is about teaching our children about emotions in a healthy and constructive way. When we do this, then the feeling gets stored next to the story in the child’s mind and body, and they start to understand that they are not a bad kid, and it is not their fault that dad is angry or mom is shouting or crying. We turn an unformulated experience into a

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Dr. Caroline Leaf

Mental health expert. I have spent the last 30+ years researching ways to help people manage mental health issues in school, work, and life: drleaf.com