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Emotional Regulation

Emotional Regulation

Emotional Regulation
Many children struggle with regulating their emotions, and often feel overwhelmed by small experiences. A child’s ability to understand and regulate their emotional reactions develops with age, but some children continue to have difficulty with this. For example, a child may become extremely upset when they are not first in line. This is a common occurrence in kindergartens, but as your child progresses through their schooling years, these reactions are often seen as less acceptable and can affect social relationships.

How can I tell if my child is having difficulty regulating their emotional responses?
Some signs that your child may be having difficulty processing and managing their emotions include:
– Physical responses to situations which cause anger, such as hitting, punching and kicking.
– Becoming extremely upset in short space of time, and having difficulty being calmed down.
– Shutting down completely when they are worried about something, to the extent of their own exclusion from participating in something.
– Having difficulty talking about their emotions, and instead responding in a behavioural manner to express how they are feeling.
– Having a strong emotional reaction to something for which you are unable to determine the cause.

How can I help my child with managing their emotions?
Emotional experiences can be confusing for anybody, especially children, but if they continue to struggle with regulating their emotions and it is beginning to impact them or others, there are some simple things which parents can try to assist them in this area.
Some strategies which can be extremely effective include:
– Naming the Emotion – Often children are not aware of the emotion they are experiencing, so naming it for them can be useful. For example, “Johnny, I can tell you’re feeling angry because you’ve started yelling instead of using a calm voice”.
– Reassure your child that feeling emotions, even strong ones, is an important and normal part of life. Even ‘negative’ emotions are important to feel rather than avoid.
– Normalise the experience of emotions – name and comment on your own emotions and their causes to help your child understand that everyone feels these emotions. For example, “I’m worried that we’re going to be late, but we’ll just try our best to get there on time” or “I feel really frustrated that I didn’t get that right, but I’ll have another go to see if I can do better”.
– Explain the difference between feeling an emotion and reacting to that emotion. It is ok to feel annoyed with a friend, but reacting by yelling at them is not helpful to the situation.

These are general strategies which can assist many children to develop their emotional regulation skills. Some children however, benefit from more specific strategies relevant for their particular situation. If this is the case for your child, it is recommended you seek the services of a child psychologist with experience in this area.

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