How to Help Your Child Learn Emotion Regulation
Children and adults see and respond to the world very differently, especially when it comes to emotional regulation. Adults can often be perplexed or even frustrated by children’s emotional responses, especially when the responses are in the form of tantrums. However, children are not born knowing how to express their emotions, emotional regulation is learned. Children often have tantrums because they are experiencing an emotion that they do not know how to communicate or regulate. Many aspects contribute to children’s development of emotional regulation, such as their disposition, personality, and developmental level. Parents also play a significant role in their children’s emotional development.
Below are some tips to assist your child in developing healthy and appropriate emotional regulation.
1. It is important that you talk about a name for your emotions. By using emotional language and naming your own feelings, children will learn to identify their feelings and put them into words.
2. Be aware of how you handle and cope with your emotions. Children will often mirror your emotional responses and learn how to deal with challenging emotions by watching how you handle yourself.
3. If you tend to explode when you are angry or bottle up your emotions, your children will learn to do the same. Take a look at your own emotional awareness. Ask yourself if this is how you want your children to express their own emotions.
4. Listen to your children and validate the emotions that they express to you. Understand that your child’s emotional outburst is not a personal attack on you nor are they trying to make parenting more difficult. They are actually trying to communicate with you. When this happens, name your child’s emotion and avoid invalidating statements such as “don’t be sad” or “there is no reason to be angry.” Those statements only teach children that their emotions are not acceptable. Instead, listen to your children’s experience and encourage them to say how they feel. Respond with validating statements such as “I see that you are angry that you cannot have the toy.” This statement is more encouraging, teaches children to communicate what they are feeling, and teaches that both negative and positive emotions are acceptable.
5. Create a consistent, predictable household with rules and boundaries. Children who live in chaotic, stressful homes often struggle with healthy emotion regulation. When there are clear rules and boundaries, the home environment feels safe and secure. Children know what to expect and what is expected of them. A stable and secure home can help children develop emotional skills, which they can use outside of the home, where life is much less predictable. These skills will be useful both in childhood and as they grow into adulthood.
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