How can I help my child develop emotional self-regulation?

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As they develop children need to learn how to calm themselves down and learn how to act when things aren’t going their way. Children learn these skills in relationships by observing how their parents and carers respond in stressful situations.

  • Share your emotions with your child and tell them how you cope e.g. ‘I felt nervous when I started my new job so I went for a run before work to calm myself down’.
  • Help teach your child words for different emotions so they can more easily discuss their feelings.
  • Help your child identify how their body tells them they’re getting stressed e.g. hunched shoulders, clenched fists. Learn to respond before emotions get too high.
  • Make sure your child knows what they are expected to do – be specific and use role play or video to show them the difference between a helpful response in a situation and a response that is not helpful or not allowed. Remember your own response to stress is a powerful lesson.
  • Be specific with praise ‘I’m impressed how you handled your homework tonight. You stayed calm and kept going even when the questions were hard’
  • Give them strategies to calm down. In frustration many parents send children to their rooms without considering if the child has a strategy for calming down once they get there.
  • Don’t underestimate the effect that being tired and/ or hungry can have on a young child’s ability to cope – maintain good sleep and meal routines.

If your child’s emotional fragility does not respond to simple strategies or is seriously impacting their day to day life, please consult a professional such as the school counsellor or psychologist.

What does well developed self-regulation look like?