Managing big emotions in children: Emotional Regulation

It is normal to feel emotions and emotion is an art of expression. Everyone feels emotions—including myself, you, our kids, and even our pets. Emotions are the makeup of our soul and without emotions we are just skeleton and flesh. It is important to learn how to recognise, understand and manage your emotions in different situations of life. Just like adults, children need to develop strategies for managing their emotions. When children are more socially and emotionally aware and skilled, they can solve problems when challenges arise. Their ability to control their emotions can have an impact on their ability to thrive, their ability to perform well in school, and their relationships with classmates and family. But unlike many adults, it can be difficult for children to recognize and understand their emotions. When child experience strong emotions, it is your responsibility to support the child in the development of emotional regulation.

What is emotional regulation?

Emotional regulation is the capacity to control or modify feelings in response to thoughts and feelings in response to circumstances and environment.

There are a few indicators of emotional dysregulation in children to be aware of. Among them are:

  • Extreme outbursts
  • Screams and tantrums
  • Refusal to participate in activities
  • Refusal to follow instructions
  • Often sobbing or feeling down
  • Aggression
  • Feelings of hostility or self-harm

How you can help your child?

By assisting your child in developing “emotional language,” you may help them understand how they’re feeling. As your child grows, emotional regulation helps them to behave in socially acceptable ways-because it gives your child the ability to control impulses.

Recognise your adolescent or child’s emotions, even if you find them upsetting or believe they are unjustified. Instead of passing judgement, be understanding and use phrases like “That must have made you angry” or “You seem sad” to mirror their feelings back to them. They feel understood, and their sentiments are validated by this. Your child will learn that their feelings matter if you acknowledge and validate them.

Parents can help their children in dealing with emotions through the following ways;

  • Help them identify their emotions
  • Help them label their emotions, with the use of visual aids (e.g. emotion charts or cards, etc)
  • Acknowledge and validate their emotions
  • Teach your child relaxation exercises
  • Teach them problem solving skills
  • Encourage physical activities
  • Stay calm and avoid harsh reactions
  • Give them space and a comfortable environment

Seek professional assistance if necessary. If your child is consistently having trouble controlling their emotions, you may want to think about having them see a mental health specialist who specialises in working with children.

Remember, emotional regulation takes time and practice. Be patient and consistent in your efforts to help your child learn these skills.