How to manage feelings

Life skills

How to manage feelings

This section helps you to:

  • Identify what may be behind a child’s changing behaviour
  • Think about ways to manage moods
  • Work with the child to show you what is upsetting them.
  1. On this page:

    Understanding changing behaviours ↓

  2. Managing moods ↓

Understanding changing behaviours

Children with ADHD can appear to be overreacting a lot more than children without ADHD. One moment they can seem happy and hopeful, the next defiant and disruptive. This can be particularly challenging day-to-day, as there may not be any obvious trigger that has caused this in the home or school.

That’s why it’s important to think about what may be going on in the child’s body and mind, for example:

  • Low self-esteem
    • A child may have low self-confidence and self-esteem, making it harder for them to cope with the ups and downs of a typical day
  • Related conditions
    • ADHD is often associated with other condition, including anxiety or depression, which may contribute to mood swings
  • Medication wearing off
    • If a child is taking medication, they may a change in behavior in the late afternoon or evening as it wears off. For example, there may be an increase in ADHD symptoms or irritability.
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Managing moods

Parents and carers can try to help the child manage their moods. One simple way is to encourage the child to think logically about the factors influencing their mood.

You can use the following downloadable tool with a child to help them explore their feelings. For example:

  • You can see that a boy is angry, but you are not sure why
  • Using the tool, ask the boy to draw what has happened
  • From the picture, it becomes clear that he is angry at being shut out from a group game
    • Using the sketch, you can then talk about what caused the problem, how he felt then and how he feels now, what he did and what he could do differently next time.

Helping with feelings

A tool to help a child explore their feelings


Think about it:

What is happening now? How does that make the child feel? What are the facts?


If the mood is not based on current actions and facts, try to move on

Take another look:

A negative thought does not have to lead to a negative feeling or mood. Can the situation be viewed more positively?

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Biederman J, et al. J Clin Psychiatry 2006;67:524-40.

Brod M, et al. Health Qual Life Outcomes 2012;10:47.