Project Description

Dan Siegel explains how your child’s brain works….

Dan Siegel is a child psychotherapist and neuroscientist who explains in an accessible way just how your child’s brain (and yours!) works when emotions are running high. Watch the video for expert advice on how to help your child name their feelings, and how to tame them!

During the primary school years your child will grow and develop so much in many different ways. This is an important time for you to continue to develop the relationship with your child, showing them support and teaching them about emotions and mental health will help set them up for a more successful future. Often your love, care and support are the best things you can give your child to help with their mental health and wellbeing but sometimes their emotions and behaviours can be overwhelming (both for them and for you).

You and Your Child

  • You are one of the most important people in your child’s life and your relationship will mean you can heal together.
  • Take some time each day to play and talk. It has been scientifically proven that play helps to calm children. If your child is older, try to spend time with them doing something they enjoy.
  • Find ways for them to relax, if possible on a daily basis, e.g. listen to music, having a bath, having a bedtime story.
  • Acknowledge your child’s feelings, even if you think their worries are trivial, to them they are very important.
  • Give your child affirmations even if their behaviour is challenging, ‘I’m glad you are here.’ ‘I like who you are.’ This is to remind them that you love them no matter what.

Helping Your Child

  • Listen to them, it is important that you are ready to listen to them when they are ready to talk as this could be at any moment.
  • Talk to them when they are ready, either verbally or via drawings, paintings or play dough. Children may act out to get your attention if they feel unheard or confused.
  • Acknowledge that it may be difficult or scary for them to talk to you about what happened and how they feel. This is important because once they start talking about it, it becomes less scary for them.
  • Be patient! If they do not want to talk don’t push them.
  • Be kind! Respond with kindness rather than with negative emotions.
  • Have clear and consistent routines at home, e.g. at bedtime have a specific order that things are done in and ensure bedtime is around the same time every day. The sleep charity has some great advice here.
  • If you cannot talk to your child or they won’t talk to you, try to find another safe adult they trust, e.g. a teacher, another family member.

Helping Yourself

  • Don’t be too hard on yourself if your child is having problems. Even though it can be worrying and more challenging to support your child if they are having a bad time you need to remember that you are not a bad parent and that your support will help them heal.
  • Often children will express their negative emotions towards those that are closest to them, so you may be experiencing the full force of their big emotions. Remember the love and care you show them will help them heal during this time.
  • Make sure you take time to calm your own emotions before responding to a situation with your child. Take a deep breath and a moment to think about what you are going to do and say before you react.
  • Remember to keep adult issues to adults, If you find you are struggling with things yourself find another adult that you can talk to and that can give you support. This could be a friend, your partner, a member of staff at your child’s school or your GP.#
  • Self care for YOU! The more you can stay regulated, the more you will be able to help your child. Please see the Anna Freud Website for more support on self care for parents

Giving your child an outlet for their feelings

Below are some ideas for activities you can do with your child to help them express and explore their feelings. These activities can be tailored to all different age groups, where possible use your individual child’s interests to personalise the activities.

You can also use this toolbox from Childline which has lots of games, advice and videos.

Be a part of it, join in and allow them to express their feelings via mediums such as play dough, paint, sand, water, model toys – even if their play is aggressive. Allowing them to play gives them a safe outlet for their emotions.

Allow them access to paper and pens/crayons in their room so they can draw their bad dream. They may want to show it to you and talk about it, afterwards screw the drawing up and throw it away. Drawings of good dreams can be kept.

A bag can be drawn, made or used that you place negative feelings, thoughts, words or drawings inside. The bag is then thrown away or kept depending upon the child.

Allow your child/children to have access to crayons and paper or colouring sheets so they can draw or write or colour. Perhaps they could make a happy book.

Squeeze it hard until it squidges through their fingers or press it really hard onto a plate to make pancakes – screw it up and make some more. This can be done with pizza dough or bread dough too.

Physical exercise is very good at calming the system down as well as releasing aggressive energy and happy hormones. Try Swing Ball / Trampoline / Star jumps / Kicking a ball / Running / Swimming. 

Create a special, safe place at home with your child/children that they can go to when they start to feel emotionally upset. Pop up tents are good for this.  Put calming items in this space, e.g. books, teddies, blankets they can wrap themselves up in, something that has a favourite smell, an object(s) from the family memory jar etc.

This is not to be used as a punishment space. 

A list of books for children to support their mental health and wellbeing has been put together by Reading Well, click here to see the list of recommended books which are available from your local library.

There are lots of resources to help support your child with issues such as anxiety and friendship issues here.


Resources for Further Support

  • A well being plan can be helpful to run through with your child – it not only tells that them that it is okay to struggle, it enables you to work together to make a plan. The Charlie Waller  Foundation have created a fantastic template see link below:



Information and advice about talking to your child about their emotional wellbeing.

Advice for parents and carers about talking to primary aged children about mental health.

Gingerbread is a charity which support single parent families and gives advice for supporting children and young people in a number of situations which may be related to life in a single parent family.

Advice from the NHS about talking to your children about their feelings.

A parent and carers guide to apps, games and social media sites as well as information about helping to keep your children safe online.

Information and advice about children’s mental health.

Advice for supporting your child

Advice about bullying

Our page for young people about bullying can be found here

Advice for parents and carers about bullying, including their parent and carer helpline.

Information about free assertiveness workshops for young people aged 9-16 and their parents/carers run by Kidscape.

Information for parents and carers about bullying.

Some fun things to do for you and your child


A list of free, online, boredom-busting resources!