Emotion regulation in children (by Helen)
Emotion regulation is more than just calming down. It involves recognising a feeling or emotion, understanding how the emotion feels in your body, naming the emotion, and doing something that helps you work through that emotion rather than acting it out by screaming, hitting, breaking things and so on.
Sounds like a lot!
Adults often expect children to be able to regulate their emotions automatically, but children have not developed the mental skill to be able to do this. They need help from their caregivers to learn how to do it.
How can adults help children regulate emotions?
· Let them know that no feelings are ‘wrong’. Validate your child’s emotion by saying ‘I can see that you’re angry/sad/disappointed/frustrated. Is there anything I can do to help right now?’.
· Don’t attempt teaching opportunities when your child is very emotional as their brain isn’t in a state to hear you.
· Stay calm and ‘ride the wave’ – your role-modelling will show your child that it is safe for them to show their emotions.
· When your child has calmed down, talk them through what they were feeling and help them find the naming words. Ask them where they felt it in their body. Let them know it’s OK to feel the big emotion, but it’s not ok to have the big behaviour. Problem-solve alternatives with them to start building a toolkit of strategies that they will, over time, be able to use more independently.
Here at the Perinatal Child and Family Hub we have psychologists to help support you and your child with emotion regulation.