Four Questions to Ask When Emotions Spike | Deborah Farmer Kris | 5 Min Read

Saturday was a gorgeous spring day, so I took my seven-year-old to the zoo — along with hundreds of other parents who were also on the hunt for a safe, outdoor activity. 

About 30 minutes before closing time, as we meandered toward the exit, a familiar sound joined the chorus of birds and gibbons: crying children. The wails of lots and lots of crying children.

Just because the day ended in tears doesn’t mean these kids didn’t have a good time overall. They had simply reached that point where they were overtired, overstimulated, and in need of a snack and a nap.

Emotions are great data. As psychologist Susan David likes to say, “Emotions are data, not directives.” Feeling distressed gives us a signal that something inside us needs attention — but it doesn’t tell us what to do about it. 

That’s why it can be helpful for kids and teens to learn mnemonics — or memory devices — that help them apply the best principles In moments of stress. That was the…

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Deborah Farmer Kris

A writer, teacher, parent, and child development expert, Deborah Farmer Kris writes regularly for PBS KIDS for Parents and NPR’s MindShift; her work has been featured several times in The Washington Post; and she is the author of the All the Time picture book series (coming out in 2022) focused on social-emotional growth. A popular speaker, Deborah has a B.A. in English, a B.S. in Education, and an M.Ed. in Counseling Psychology. Mostly, she loves finding and sharing nuggets of practical wisdom that can help kids and families thrive — including her own. You can follow her on Twitter @dfkris, contact her at [email protected], or visit her website: Parenthood365 (