Improving Your Child's Emotional Regulation Skills

August 25, 2020

Improving Your Child's Emotional Regulation Skills

First and foremost, Ina reminds us that this is a difficult time for all of us: everyone’s emotions are heightened. She advises parents to expect meltdowns from kids, as tantrums and defiance are normal responses to elevated stress levels. She also discusses how stress can manifest differently in kids, ranging from clinginess to acting withdrawn and agitated. Parents can’t stop kids from feeling stressed, but they can help them become aware of their emotions and teach them how to cope with them in a healthier way. One way parents can do this is by monitoring their child’s body language to see when they’re becoming too upset and communicating this to the child. To do this, Ina recommends thinking of different emotions as different zones: blue is sad, green is happy, yellow is mad or worried, and red is furious or terrified. We spend time in each of these zones, but we want to avoid being in the red zone as much as possible. Parents need to identify when their child is in the yellow zone and help them avoid transitioning to the red zone.

Ina explains that parents can also help children understand how too much emotion can be a detriment by using different balls to represent emotion and reasoning. First, show two balls of the same size and then two balls of a different size. Using the equally sized balls, explain that when your emotions are equal to your reasoning, you can find a solution to your problem. However, when your emotions are too big (showing the bigger ball), it is harder to reason and solve the problem. Explain that you have to bring the emotion down and remove yourself from an emotional situation to be able to reason again. Ina recommends brainstorming techniques with your child that they can use when they feel overwhelmed, such as relaxation exercises like deep breathing and yoga. She also advises kids to think of activities they could use to distract themselves, such as reading or listening to music to avoid a meltdown. Sensory activities, such as hugging a parent or playing with putty or clay can also help children calm themselves down. Parents can help avoid meltdowns by teaching kids to use words to express their emotions.

Ina reminds us that a lack of structure can be very stressful for kids, so parents should create a daily schedule with time for self-care, outside activities, and creative time. Set routines provide structure and an outlet for kids, which is even more vital during this time. Ina suggests making time to bond with your child and give them extra support, while also practicing self-care for your own well-being. She reminds parents to cut themselves a break and remember that the “perfect parent” doesn’t exist. By implementing these strategies, parents can help kids better regulate their emotions and express themselves, making life easier for parents and kids alike!