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Dealing with Sadness in School


Sadness is a beautiful emotion, tender and vulnerable. When someone is sad or crying, it is like seeing into the person’s heart. 

Yet, many students don’t know how to properly manage sadness. Sadness is not something they’ve carefully considered or discussed. As a result, they may bottle it up or feel embarrassed by it.

You can empower students to deal with sadness in healthy ways. Use this quick activity from In Focus to start a conversation about sadness. Then share the posters to discuss coping strategies. 

Activity of the Day: Recognizing Sadness

  1. Today we are going to focus on the emotion of sadness. 
  2. The truth about life is that it is sad sometimes, no matter what we do. 
  3. I want to remind you that whatever emotions you feel in this classroom are okay.
  4. Sharing your sadness with others can be comforting. 
  5. If you are feeling sad at school, what can you do about it? It is important to do some action to move the energy of the emotion. 
  6. Pair up and discuss what you can do if you are feeling sad at school. Take a few minutes to talk and write down your ideas. 
  7. Let’s bring our focus back to the whole class. Who is willing to share a few ideas? I will write them on the board. (Present this poster.)
  8. This is a great list. Thanks for sharing. 
  9. What are some unhealthy ways to deal with sadness? (Share this poster.)
  10. Please keep exploring ways to take care of yourself at school when you are feeling sad. Share any new ideas that come to you.

Featured Downloads: SEL Posters

Hand out or display these posters to highlight healthy ways to manage sadness.

Download this poster (PDF)
Feeling Sad? Try This...

Download this poster (PDF)
Dealing with Sadness

Teaching Support

Consider this support as you engage with this activity.



Learning Objectives

By completing this activity, students will . . .

  • Recognize and manage sadness.
  • Explore healthy ways to self-soothe.
  • Show concern for the feelings of others. 
  • Collaborate and problem-solve with classmates. 

Teaching Tips

  • Print out the posters and display them on your classroom wall. 
  • Add strategies to the “When I Feel Sad . . .” poster based on your class discussion. 
  • Encourage students to practice coping strategies: “If you are experiencing sadness, choose one of the strategies and do it for five minutes.”
  • Reiterate to students that occasional sadness is normal and that there is nothing “wrong” with them for feeling it.
  • Note also that crying is sometimes the best coping strategy. It can cleanse and heal, and students should not feel embarrassed to do it, even in the classroom.
  • Practice SEL each day. With daily practice, your students can learn to deal responsibly with their emotions and renew their focus on learning.
  • Connect with other educators by participating in International SEL Day.
  • Self-reflect: Are you willing to share your own sadness with your students? How would you feel about crying in front of your students? It is important to be aware of your notions about sadness and other feelings. Unless you are aware of them, you may unconsciously limit or avoid emotions in your classroom.

Teacher Support:

Click to find out more about this resource.

Standards Correlations:

The State Standards provide a way to evaluate your students' performance.