Explaining anger and sadness to kids

by / Sep 06, 2022




Ann-Louise: I think I appreciate that when we can actually have a dialogue about how we're feeling, rather than just going to the default I'm fine. It's just nice to stop and listen to others and hear about their experiences from a genuine place. 


Nakita: You know, Dr. Lockhart, I agree. Thinking about this episode, what do you do when you feel an emotion that feels confusing?


Ann-Louise: Ooh, that is a great question. I don't like confusing emotions and sometimes I even avoid them at first. And then I try to talk to good friends to maybe help me figure out why that feeling is there.


Sometimes I maybe do other things to distract myself or to do something that's fun or enjoyable, like taking a walk or watching something. You know, but I think confusing emotions happen when we have more than one feeling at the same time. So Nakita, if you remember, in the first episode I talked about these ambivalent feelings, which is when we're feeling two emotions at the same time or about the same person. 


So what about. What about you Nakita? What do you do when you have confusing feelings? 





Nakita: Sometimes when I feel a confusing emotion, I really have to talk out loud to myself or I'll write it down so I can look back at it a little bit later.


So we're going to discuss one of the confusing feelings people experienced today. Are you ready? 


Ann-Louise: I sure am. 



Ann-Louise: Yeah. You know, that would bring up a bunch of mixed feelings for me too.


Bianca. Thanks so much for sharing your story, your experiences, and being so brave to share that with so many others, you know, Nakita, it's okay to feel angry and sad when really confusing things happen. These things can trigger many other feelings within us. You know, as a kid, you're still learning about feelings and your brain is learning about what to do when you feel.


It's a lot to learn. 


Nakita: You know, Dr. Lockhart, I'm wondering if there are other names used to describe the feeling of angry and sad. 


Ann-Louise: Yeah, that's a great question, Nakita. There are definitely other words we can use to describe the emotion you’re feeling. And as we've talked about before in other episodes, these are called synonyms. 


So other words for angry include upset, rage, frustrated, agitated, furious, and mad. 


On the flip side, other words for sad include lonely, empty, depressed, hurt, irritable, disappointed. They mean slightly different things, but they all describe different ways we feel angry and sad and what happens in our bodies when that happens. 




Nakita: Hm. You know, I gotta be honest Dr. Lockhart, sometimes it's hard for me to control what I feel inside when I get angry. Sometimes once I'm angry, everything else makes me so angry. And when I'm sad, the same thing happens. What's up with that?


Ann-Louise: Yeah. Nakita, you know, anger and sadness are actually close relatives. Anger is an excellent cover-up emotion. 


Sadness is a vulnerable emotion. Sometimes we think anger will protect us from feeling things we don't want to feel, or maybe it helps us feel in control when a situation feels out of control. So we think the anger we feel will help us feel less sad. 


You want to know the truth though? It doesn't actually help us feel less sad. 


Nakita: I remember feeling angry when I got the wrong order of food after going all the way back to my office. But honestly, I felt sad that it didn't get what I really wanted because the food I got wasn't as good as the original order. 


Ann-Louise: Oh I remember, you know, feeling angry. When I was teaching my daughter history, we were at home during the pandemic. I was teaching her lessons and I was just starting to feel really impatient and I couldn't figure out why.


And I was even rushing her through it. And then I realized, I actually felt sad about the stuff she was learning. It felt heavy and it felt really uncomfortable. So the anger and the impatience was actually covering up [the sadness].



Nakita: That's so powerful to know how close anger and sadness are, and I never realized how close they are and how they impact each other. 



Nakita: Dr. Lockhart, before I wrap up, are there any tools for angry or sad thoughts and feelings that you think would help our listeners and their grownups? 


Ann-Louise: Absolutely Nakita. I have three really helpful tools and tips for each. 


So first, remember, your feelings are not your enemy. Your feelings give you messages about other people and the world around you. Embrace those feelings. Even the confusing ones. Second, when you feel angry, ask yourself, am I in the red zone?


Which means you're really angry. Am I in the yellow zone? Maybe you're just a little upset. Or, am I in the green zone? That means you might be feeling calm and relaxed. You're just reading your body and learning. What is it that I'm feeling in the moment? 


Third, stretch. Clench and relax your fists. Shrug and relax your shoulders. Take three deep breaths in and then out. You can do the same thing when you're feeling sad, too. It's okay to tell people what you need when you feel unsure or scared. But the bottom line is to know that your feelings give you messages and it's okay to remember that your feelings are things that give you messages and it's okay to feel them. And it's okay to communicate them. 


This is Everyday Feels, a podcast about emotions for kids and their grownups. In each episode, Nakita Simpson and Dr. Lockhart explore a new emotion, breaking down why we may be feeling that way.