Comfort, Play, and Teach: Children’s emotions

Comfort, Play, and Teach: Children’s emotions
The Comfort, Play, and Teach approach allows parents to help their children express and regulate their emotions.

Your child experiences different emotions every day. It’s not easy for them to understand and deal with their feelings. Sometimes, they’re overwhelmed by their emotions and unable to control them. The Comfort, Play, and Teach approach can help.


Children’s emotions:
See how this mother reacts when her child gets upset.
  • Accept your child’s emotions without judgment. For example, if they’re having a tantrum, stay with them and try to remain calm. Don’t attempt to have a conversation while they’re worked up or if they’re crying uncontrollably. Simply comfort them, give them a hug, and wait for them to calm down before asking what happened.
  • Take their emotions seriously. Tell your child that what they’re feeling is normal and that you understand why they’re happy, sad, or angry. This will reassure and comfort them and make them feel understood.
  • Take the time to listen to your child even if you’re in a hurry. A child who feels heard and understood will work through their emotions and move on more quickly.
  • Tell them about your own emotions. For instance, you can talk about the last time you felt frustrated or sad. This helps your child understand that it’s okay to have emotions and that they shouldn’t hide or feel ashamed of them.


  • Encourage your child to role-play with the help of costumes, figurines, puppets, and stuffed animals. Playing make-believe gives children a safe setting to experience a wide range of emotions and imagine themselves in different situations.
  • Have fun imitating different emotions in front of a mirror together. Your child will learn more about themself and how they express their feelings. You can also take photos of yourselves and put them in a feelings scrapbook along with magazine cut-outs of faces displaying various emotions.
  • Read picture books with your child to show them characters experiencing different emotions. Some stories offer a lighthearted way for kids to better understand emotions like anger, sadness, and fear.


  • Help your child verbalize their emotions. You can start by naming the emotions you observe in them, such as joy, sadness, anger, and fear. For instance, you can say, “You’re crying! Are you sad because Mommy is leaving?” As your child gets older, talk to them about more complex emotions such as disappointment, guilt, and jealousy.
  • Teach them to recognize what’s happening inside them when they experience an emotion. Name the physical signs you notice by saying things like “You yelled and clenched your fists when your sister knocked over your block tower. Were you angry?” or “You started trembling and clung to me when you saw the dog running toward you. I think you were scared.”
  • Be a role model for your child and talk about what you do to manage your emotions. If you’re waiting in line and getting impatient, for instance, you might say, “This is taking a long time and I’m annoyed about having to wait. But I’m going to take a deep breath and find an activity to keep me busy.” You can also suggest strategies for managing emotions. Have these conversations when your child is calm so that they remember what to do when they get emotional.
  • Encourage family discussions about emotions. For example, during dinner, talk about situations that make you happy or angry. Then ask your child what makes them happy or sad. This will get them used to talking about their day-to-day experiences.

To find out more, read the fact sheet titled Teaching children to manage their emotions.

Naître et grandir

Scientific review: Annie Goulet, psychologist
Copywriting: The Naître et grandir team
Updated: August 2023


Sources and references

Note: The links to other websites are not updated regularly, and some URLs may have changed since publication. If a link is no longer valid, please use search engines to find the relevant information.

For parents

  • Berghella, Nadia. Jouons avec les émotions : cartons psychoéducatifs pour comprendre et mieux vivre les émotions. Quebec City, Éditions Midi trente, 2011, 27 cards.
  • Bourque, Solène. Les grandes émotions des tout-petits : comprendre et soutenir les apprentissages émotionnels chez les 2 à 6 ans. Quebec City, Éditions Midi trente, 2020, 139 pp.
  • Couturier, Stéphanie. Aider son enfant à s’apaiser sans cris ni punitions. Vanves, Éditions Marabout, 2022, 159 pp.
  • Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development. “Emotions.”
  • Filliozat, Isabelle. Understanding Children’s Emotions: Heart to heart parenting. Raising your child’s EQ. Vanves, Éditions Marabout, 2013, 322 pp.
  • Filliozat, Isabelle. Comprendre et éduquer son enfant : les outils concrets de la parentalité positive pour transformer votre quotidien. Vanves, Éditions Marabout, 2022, 269 pp.
  • Gueguen, Catherine. Pour une enfance heureuse : repenser l’éducation à la lumière des dernières découvertes sur le cerveau. Paris, Éditions Robert Laffont, 2014, 304 pp.
  • Hammarrenger, Benoît. De l’opposition à la communication : entendre et comprendre vraiment vos enfants et vos adolescents. Quebec City, Éditions Midi trente, 2022, 200 pp.

For kids

  • Bourque, Solène. Mini Loup vit un tourbillon d’émotions. Quebec City, Éditions Midi trente, 2017, 48 pp.
  • Cain, Janan. The Way I Feel. Toronto, Scholastic, 2000.
  • Chabot, Claire. “Zut de Flûte” series. Saint-Lambert, Éditions Dominique et compagnie.
  • Couturier, Stéphanie. Ma bibliothèque des émotions (boxed set of 6 books). Paris, Éditions Grund, 2019.
  • Dufour, Marianne. Guide d’entraînement pour apprivoiser son lion : apprendre à calmer son lion intérieur et à communiquer sainement. Quebec City, Éditions Midi trente, 2017, 48 pp.
  • Dufresne, Rhéa. Ma journée, mes humeurs. Montreal, Éditions de l’Isatis, 2013, 24 pp.
  • Gravel, Élise. Comment ça va? Markham, Scholastic, 2016, 96 pp.
  • Hébert, Ariane. La colère racontée aux enfants. Boucherville, Éditions de Mortagne, 2021, 68 pp.
  • Hébert, Ariane. L’anxiété racontée aux enfants. Boucherville, Éditions de Mortagne, 2017, 55 pp.
  • Hébert, Ariane. Les émotions racontées aux enfants. Boucherville, Éditions de Mortagne, 2018, 71 pp.
  • Latulippe, Martine, and Nathalie Parent. La colère de Fabien. Laval, Mammouth rose, June 2020, 32 pp.
  • Latulippe, Martine, and Nathalie Parent. L’anxiété de Timothée. Laval, Saint-Jean Éditeur, 2022, 28 pp.
  • Latulippe, Martine, and Nathalie Parent. La peur de Mathis. Laval, Mammouth rose, June 2020, 32 pp.
  • Latulippe, Martine, and Nathalie Parent. La tristesse de Mahée. Laval, Mammouth rose, June 2020, 32 pp.
  • Latulippe, Martine, and Nathalie Parent. Le deuil d’Olivia. Laval, Saint-Jean Éditeur, 2022, 28 pp.
  • Llenas, Anna. The Color Monster: A Story about Emotions. New York, Little, Brown and Company, 2018, 40 pp.
  • Potter, Molly. How Are You Feeling Today? Illustrated by Sarah Jennings, London, Featherstone, 2014, 32 pp.