Is Your Kid A Hot Mess? 10 Ways To Help Your Child Keep Their Emotions In Check

Many kids are a mess right now. And your kid struggling does not mean she will struggle forever.

overly emotional child playing with dad getty

As everyone turns the corner from the height of the pandemic and back to school, many parents are struggling with concerns about their child’s feelings and emotional state.

Carrying a 500-pound backpack, seeing people they had forgotten, realizing new relationships have formed during hybrid or shut down schooling, or even just trying to use social skills they have not used in a while can be tough.


Not to mention all the struggles that go into childhood and teenhood. Is it any wonder that you have an overly emotional child, right now?

RELATED: When Parents Embrace Social Emotional Learning, Kids Feel The Joy Again

As you hear the stories of other kids who seemed to have climbed Mount Everest during the pandemic while getting straight A’s, your child might feel very alone. But, fear not!


Many kids, probably including yours, are a hot mess right now. But their struggling does not mean that they will struggle forever.

At the end of this school year, so many kids and teenagers are bombarded with demands, mental health issues, and the feeling of FOMO (fear of missing out).

If your kid seems unmotivated, it’s because they probably are. Perhaps some students have surfaced energized, but for the majority, going back to school is about learning how to connect again.

Low energy combined with stress may create an environment where they come home snarky and grumpy. Don’t despair, they might just need a little support to guide them out of this hot mess.


Here are 10 ways to help your overly emotional child keep their emotions in check. 

1. Truly listen to your kid.

Ask and listen. Don’t apply pressure nor assume you know the reasons for your child’s behavior. When you talk to your child, don’t jump in with advice.

Imagine a world in which your boss or partner constantly told you, "The reason you're a mess is because you don’t plan ahead." It wouldn't be well-received.

Getting your child to feel comfortable talking to you requires waiting, listening, and showing confidence that they have the capacity to learn and grow.

If you push your agenda, you will likely get nowhere. By truly hearing your child’s perspective, you allow them to hold a mirror up to her views about friendship and to evaluate them. This takes time, but it will deliver better results.


2. Give them space.

Everything doesn't have to be solved in the moment. Allow your child to walk away.

If they won’t take the time and space to use strategies to manage their emotions, then you will need to breathe deeply and give yourself space.

3. Don’t interrogate.

Reflect, clarify, and be curious, but don’t interrogate. Make the conversations short and allow them to answer one or two questions.

Paraphrasing what your child says and then repeating it back to him shows empathy and helps clarify your child’s concerns.

For example, they might declare, "You always want so much from me and you don’t get how hard school is now."

Reflect back: "What I hear you saying is school is much harder than when I went and you feel like everyone wants so much from you."


By summarizing and repeating his statements, you allow your child to clarify, share more information, and to give his interpretation of the statement.

This curiosity invites him to be comfortable opening up to you.

4. Check in on their health and wellness.

This includes sleep, nutrition, and other factors that may contribute to the meltdown.

No one does as well when they can’t sleep.

5. Create a plan to help for when they are stressed.

In the heat of the moment or during fight, flight, or freeze mode, it’s very hard for them to problem-solve. Don’t judge them when they are in this aroused state.

Reflect back to your child’s emotional state by saying, "I notice you’re stressed right now."


When they're in a more relaxed state, work with them to create a routine with strategies they can enact to manage their heightened emotions.

RELATED: 5 Ways Parents Can Build Emotional Intelligence & Resilience In Kids Right Now

6. Don’t offer advice, offer help.

You probably recognize the cycles that lead your teen to become stressed such as searching for shoes and lunch just before the bus comes. You probably also recognize that your advice is rejected.

Help your kid find the shoes during the moments of panic and when they're calm, broach solutions.

Start by saying, "I notice this time of year is hard and you seem stressed, what can I do to help? How can we work together to help you feel better and get some things running smoothly?"


7. Sneak calming strategies.

Calming strategies are often rejected by kids, especially older kids. But they may incorporate your strategies if they are not too obvious.

Warm blankets, a zen time to think and listen to music, low lights, and soothing voices help distract the thalamus that can be built into the fabric of life.

No one needs to hear, "You're a hot mess, use my strategies."

8. Support them in having time and space to reduce stress.

When you notice that your child is anxious or spiraling, support their desire to go for a run or listen to music by washing their clothes or packing their soccer bag.

Help them manage their emotions rather than continuing the spiral of tears, meltdowns, and drama.


9. Create a pattern interrupt.

Use action-oriented emotional coping strategies in class and at home with children of any age. A pattern interrupt can shift the cycle rather than allowing your kid to spin into distress.

Doing jumping jacks, shaking arms, dancing, running around the room, walking up and down the stairs, getting into nature, and touching toes help shift the internal chemistry to allow the management of emotions.

Exercise has been shown to reduce cortisol and adrenaline levels and to increase dopamine levels and release endorphins.

10. Ask them to name it to tame it.

Prompt your kid to pinpoint their emotions and check in with themselves. Ask them to determine how intense these emotions feel, and then have a plan and pick strategies ahead of time to use when their reaction has reached seven, eight, nine, or 10.


Stop the runaway cycle early and regain control so the thinking brain can resume.

Be sure to set reasonable expectations; don’t push too much fun over schoolwork or vice versa. Balance is the key as everyone returns to in-person society, especially in a currently overly emotional child. 

More important than academic success, your support will help your kid feel safe, comfortable, and secure — the key ingredients to a happy future.

RELATED: Dear Parents: Stop Gaslighting Your Kids

Caroline Maguire, ACCG, PCC, M.Ed. is a personal coach who works with children with ADHD and the families who support them. For more information, visit her website.