2 Effective Ways to Mentor Your Emotional Daughter

Nov 29, 2021

by Camille Everett

Creator of Be That Place

Handwritten notes and lunchtime chats from students kickstarted Camille's mission to help families teach sex ed at home. She is a graduate of Utah State University with a bachelor’s in Secondary Health & English Education. She loves having real conversations while devouring bowls of chocolate peanut butter ice cream.

Teenage girl who can't find the word to express her emotions

It can be tough finding the patience to deal with a daughter’s emotional outburst. You may feel like it’s an attack on you as a parent or as a person. You may feel disrespected or overwhelmed or unappreciated.

But guess what?

Your daughter feels all those emotions too — which is why it’s so important for you as a parent to help her cultivate her own emotional intelligence.

In fact, emotional intelligence is understanding how our emotions influence our behaviors and the emotions and behaviors of others through our interactions with them.

Let’s face it. Life is filled with emotions.

Emotions can be beautiful. Emotions are what allow us to feel the sheer excitement of our first roller coaster ride or the extreme sense of accomplishment when training hard for a race. Emotions create that feeling of wonder and deep contentment when we stop to really see and be present with the people around us. 

But emotions can also be challenging. It’s difficult to go through experiences of loneliness, alienation, stress, hopelessness, and discouragement.

All too often we’re so focused on our own challenging emotions that we fail to genuinely see our family’s emotions. But this recognition and understanding of your daughter’s emotions is a powerful tool in helping her regulate what’s already happening on the inside. 

Tune in to what your daughter is experiencing

Sometimes your daughter’s emotions are just as unexpected and out of control to HER as they are to you. 

Think about it. Your daughter isn’t moody because she LIKES feeling that way. But she may be feeling stuck. Like things are out of her control or she just doesn’t see the path forward. 

She needs empathy. Not sarcasm, impatience, or irritation. 

In short, she needs to feel seen and heard.

One of the best things you can do for your daughter is to help her create habits and skills that actually allow her to handle her emotions more effectively. It’s not the time to lecture her about how her emotions are over the top or to demand she cut it out. Those responses are sending all the wrong messages. 

She needs the space to feel, even deeply. She needs to learn the skills that allow her to take life as it happens and find a way forward. 

You likely don’t need to solve her problem for her and it’s not a good time to offer advice. Those things can happen later, when she’s calm. 

For now, the best thing you can do is help her learn how to effectively handle her own emotions.

How can a parent help their daughter recognize and regulate her own emotions?

Learning how to channel emotions into positive and productive outcomes takes practice. But it’s awfully hard to practice something when we don’t have the skills to even start that practice. 

This is where you step in. You can teach your daughter a lot about her own emotions by taking opportunities to teach her skills that bring awareness to emotions. You can, and should, also practice those same skills with your own emotions. Example truly is a powerful teacher.

In Marc Brackett’s excellent book, Permission to Feel, he says that, “Emotions and moods play an essential role in thought processes, judgment, and behavior.” Putting it simply, he shares that “emotions are information.” They help us understand how to adapt, make decisions strategically, show resilience when confronted with challenging moments, and consciously enjoy the present. 

Several wonderful concepts are shared in the book as part of a bigger strategy for understanding and regulating emotions. We’ll explore just a few of those concepts here.

1. Use smart emotional vocabulary

Start by helping your daughter identify her emotions. It’s incredible how many people don’t even have a vocabulary to describe HOW they feel. Sad, mad, and happy simply don’t cut it. Our emotions are much more complex than that — which means they result in really complicated thoughts and behaviors. 

Why is identifying specific emotion words so important?

Well, how do we fix something if we have no words to describe what needs to be fixed? How do we understand ourselves or move forward when we have no words to describe what’s happening inside of us?

We can’t make something out of nothing. 

In other words, we can’t regulate something when we don’t know what it is we’re even trying to regulate.

Some people might use the word mad, but do we actually feel panicked? Fuming? Restless? Shocked? Anxious? All of these emotions can show themselves through negative interactions with others, but they are very different emotions with very different causes. 

What about the word sad? Would disappointed, lonely, exhausted, hopeless, or apathetic describe what’s happening much better? 

That’s why it’s so important that kids (and parents) learn vocabulary to actually identify and recognize the emotions they are feeling. 

A quick Google Image search for “emotion wheel” or “mood meter” is a great way to start expanding that vocabulary. A dictionary also helps bring perspective to each word. When you find an image or list that you like, keep it in an easy to access location. Sometimes we just need to look at all the possible emotions out there to truly identify what we’re feeling. 

2. Help her recognize why she feels the way she does

Kids snap. Parents snap. Sometimes we say and do really mean things to each other. 

If your daughter snaps at you after being asked to clean up her food mess in the kitchen, is it because she’s simply a jerk? Or is she still fuming about the kids that laughed at her when she tripped and hit the pavement in the middle of the crosswalk? 

When she ignores your requests for help bringing in groceries while scrolling through YouTube videos on the couch, is it because she’s flat out lazy? Or is she feeling despondent because she still has no friends at her new school? 

I love how Marc Brackett states it in Permission to Feel. “Can you imagine how much miscommunication is caused by the inability to see behavior as simply a signal for emotions?”

So often we snap at each other because we’re slow to understand the emotion behind the behavior. 

But miscommunication, angry outbursts, and hurtful comments are often the result of an emotion not yet figured out. 

This is why in order to understand any emotion, whether our own or another’s, we have to ask the question, “Why?” Why does she feel the way she does? What triggered it?

Ask your daughter, “What’s up? It sounds like something’s bothering you.” 

This isn’t as easy as it sounds. But it is a skill that is truly transformative within a parent-child relationship. And as soon as your daughter feels seen, heard and armed with new skills, those dishes will get cleaned up and those groceries carried in. It’s a win-win for everyone.