DOs and DONTs of Emotional regulation for kids and families
|Emotion regulation refers to the process of generating and maintaining an emotion, as well as the ability to modulate its’ intensity and frequency in order to achieve socioemotional competence and sustain mental health. In modern society, from early age, we learn inhibition to downregulate our emotions (for example, to not cry in public or to not say anything when angry) which often results in emotional restraint. True emotional regulation is reached through focused monitoring, evaluating, and modifying of our emotional reactions and depends on the person’s age, temperamental characteristics and environmental circumstances. Some examples of successfully practicing emotional regulation include being able to calm self-down after something exciting or upsetting happens, sustaining focus on repetitive tasks, refocusing attention on a new task and controlling impulsive behaviors. The skill to emotionally regulate depends significantly on the persons’ age and brain maturity and thus understanding that some of the time the individual is not difficult or spoiled, but developmentally or circumstantially unable to control their emotions can help build empathy and strengthen family systems and relationships.
DOs in Emotional regulation
DON’Ts in Emotional regulation
Practical skills to help with emotional regulation
Mindfulness techniques. There are many ways to focus on the “now” to help tame an emotional outburst. A simple example is the 5-4-3-2-1 Grounding Exercise. It can distract from the anxiety trigger, focus the person on the present moment, and help them relax in their body. Ask the person to : name 5 things they can SEE in the room (have them list them out loud) ; name 4 things they can FEEL (sock on my feet, knots in my belly) ; name 3 things they can HEAR (my voice, radio); name 2 things they can SMELL right now (my coffee) ; name 1 thing they can TASTE (if not in the moment, what did they taste last night) . This can be shortened to 4-3-2-1 or even 3-2-1, depending on the circumstances.
Relaxation techniques– teach yourself and your young ones deep breathing. Yoga Dragon breath and the Camel pose can be a fun quick way to release tension. Explode like a volcano/ Balloon technique can be practiced anywhere and most children under 10 years of age find is helpful (pretend you explode like a volcano/popped balloon- you can jump up and model the eruption with your hands and make a lot of loud dramatic volcano sounds). Using movement, music and sensory activities can help further relax and refocus one’s brain.
Diligent self-care – emotional regulation is impossible in a body with unmet basic needs, namely being tired, hungry, thirsty, lonely or sick. Daily self-care, particularly getting enough rest depending on the person’s age, should be encouraged and taught by parents, especially to teens and young adults who have more autonomy and can make the connection between being overly tired and overly emotional and further