Emotions & Self-Awareness How to Help Your Five-Year-Old Understand and Manage Emotions

Emotional self-awareness involves identifying and understanding one's emotions ― including "big feelings" that can sometimes overwhelm us. As Fred Rogers reminds us: "When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary." Your five-year-old probably has a good grasp of basic emotion words (such as "mad," "sad," "happy" and "scared") and is ready to talk more about what causes people to feel certain ways and to anticipate how they might feel in a particular situation. This type of thinking is a building block of empathy.

Help your child understand emotions and feelings:

Read Aloud

Picture books are powerful tools for helping kids identify what feelings can look like ― and can help them begin to connect their feelings to the feelings of others. While reading, stop when an emotional event occurs and talk about how a character is feeling. For example, you might say, "Cinderella's sisters just said she can't go to the ball. How do you think she feeling right now? How would you feel if you were Cinderella?"

Something Special for Dad

Daniel is sending a letter to his Dad to show him how much he loves him. Your child can read along with this interactive storybook as Daniel describes how he made and sent the letter.

Play This Game

Normalize Emotions

Emotions are normal ― everybody has feels mad, sad, happy or scared sometimes. Helping kids understand this can ease their anxiety when they experience strong feelings. Share experiences from your own childhood about times you felt scared or upset ― and what helped you feel better. It might sound like this: "You are nervous about the first day of school? I remember how nervous I was before starting kindergarten! I was afraid I wouldn't know anybody, but the teacher played a game to help us learn each other's names. What are you feeling nervous about?"

Draw Your Feelings

Drawing is one way your child can express and manage difficult emotions. Use this online drawing activity as a tool for your child to express what she is feeling.

Play This Game

Help Your Child Manage Emotions with Arthur

Whether facing down a bully, worrying about a new teacher or being the very last person on earth to lose his baby teeth, Arthur and his friends manage to solve their crises with imagination, kindness and a lot of humor.

Find Activities

Activity Finder: Learn With Your Five-Year-Old

Explore our Age-by-Age Guide: