Supporting My Child with Emotional Regulation
Emotional regulation refers to a person’s ability to understand and manage their emotional responses to situations. Toddlers are often witnessed throwing, what is loosely described as tantrums, in shops when they do not get the toy they want. They are incredibly sad and do not yet understand their own body’s response or know how to express their unhappiness. Imagine for a moment: You are watching a clip exploring a mountain range. Suddenly your body starts feeling hot, your palms become sweaty and your heart beats faster. You do not understand what is going on and do not have the words to describe it someone. This is what it might be like for a child experiencing big emotions.
As we mature, we learn to cope with our emotions and other feelings in a socially acceptable way. For a toddler, stamping their feet when they are frustrated is an age-appropriate way to express their feelings and as adults we try to teach them other ways of communicating their wants and needs as they grow. However, as adults it is expected that we find another way to deal with our feelings. It is important to understand that our emotions should not be avoided, but merely managed. In certain situations, it is understandable to get angry. Fear is also important as it warns our body of danger. How we deal with that emotion, on the other hand is key.
But why is emotional regulation so important? The way we manage our emotions affect our daily lives. People with the skills to emotionally regulate are more resilient and capable of handling life’s stressors. Overall, it contributes greatly to the emotional well-being and happiness of a person.
Here at AEDC we have different programs to support children with their emotional regulation. However, emotional regulation needs to be taught and supported at home too. Below are a few ideas on how you can support your child with self-regulation at home
- Role modelling. Manage your own stress and emotions and verbalise your process when your child is present.
- Broaden their emotional vocabulary by being open about your feelings as well as encourage them to verbalise theirs.
- When watching movies or programs, talk to your child about the character’s emotions, their behaviour and how it affects those around them.
- Work with them to develop a “toolbox” of strategies that can help them regulate such as:
– Slow breathing
– Asking for help
– Going for a walk
– Hold on to a favourite toy
- Give immediate feedback and focus on the positives. “I like how you started breathing after you threw your toys. Maybe next time you can try breathing a little earlier.”
- Make use of rewards and positive reinforcement.
Emotional regulation is an individual learning process. Some children will learn faster than others and strategies that works for one, will not necessarily work for another. Be patient and supportive. Who knows, maybe you will learn a thing or to yourself.
Alicia holds a teaching degree and an Honours in Educational Psychology from the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa. She is currently also furthering her studies with a Certificate IV in Education Support.