Picture of Dr. Sam Himelstein

Dr. Sam Himelstein

Co-Founder and CEO, Family Spring, Inc.

Three Important Emotional Skills to Teach Your Kids

Have you ever felt stuck in a conversational loop with your kid, where you both keep saying the same thing over and over again, and it feels like you’re not getting anywhere?

I was in a situation like that recently with my twelve-year-old son.

Solomon: “Can we chill out together, just the two of us, and then you drive me to school instead of leaving me at the bus stop?”

Sam: “It would be fun to do that, but unfortunately I can’t this morning because I have to get ready for a meeting.” 

Solomon: “It’s okay if you don’t have time to chill out, you can just drive me to school and then go to your meeting.”

Sam: “I’m sorry. I really can’t today. I’ll have just enough time to drop you off at the bus stop.”

Solomon: “Are you sure you can’t drive me?”

Sam: “Like I keep saying, I really, truly don’t have time. You have to take the bus.”

We went through a couple more rounds of this, with him asking me to drive him and me telling him I didn’t have time… 

until my wife called out from the next room, “Is there a reason why you don’t want to take the bus?”

Excellent question. 

It turned out there was a very good reason why my son didn’t want me to leave him at the bus stop: He was afraid they wouldn’t let him on the bus!

The day before, he had a problem with his “Clipper card” for our local public transportation system, so he was feeling anxious about being left on the street and having no way to get to school. 

Once I understood that, we stopped going around in circles and were able to resolve the situation: I helped him add money to his card and promised I wouldn’t drive away until I was sure he was allowed on the bus. 

I also used this opportunity to teach my son a few related life skills: emotional awareness, emotional regulation, and emotional articulation. 

Emotional awareness: How am I feeling? 

Kids don’t always understand the reasons behind their behavior. In this situation, Solomon was pushing at me about giving him a ride because of his feeling of anxiety, and his anxiety kept increasing because I kept telling him he had to take the bus.

Meanwhile, I was feeling increasingly frustrated because I kept explaining to him that I didn’t have time. 

Emotional regulation: How can I calm myself down?

Whenever a kid, or adult, is feeling a strong emotion like anger, frustration, or anxiety, I recommend practicing TAP.

TAP stands for:

T= Take a Breath.

A = Acknowledge.

P = Proceed.

This practice can help both parents and kids to de-escalate tense encounters. 

If my wife hadn’t intervened, either Solomon and or I could have stopped our conversational loop by taking a quick breather, acknowledging that we weren’t communicating well, and proceeding to figure out a different way to address the situation.

Emotional articulation: How can I explain what’s happening?

Rather than continuing to insist that I give him a ride to school that day, it was much more effective for Solomon to tell me he was feeling anxious and ask me to help him figure out what to do. 

One way parents can help their kids is to talk with them about the range of emotions they might experience: not just glad, sad, or mad, but also confused or frustrated or several feelings at once.


The three related skills of emotional awareness, emotional regulation, and emotional articulation are important to teach our kids… and to practice ourselves. 

If you’re located in California and need help determining if your child and/or family need professional help, contact Family Spring by submitting an inquiry at this link.

Related Posts:

Are You Missing Important Signals from Your Kids?

Do You Have an Anxious Kid? Here are Five Ways You Can Help

Self-Awareness: One of the Most Important Skills You Can Teach Your Kids

3 Tips for De-Escalating Conflicts with Your Teen

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