Maybe you remember being a child who was sensitive to the emotions and sensations of the world around you, or maybe as your child grows, you are beginning to notice their relationship to their surroundings and their emotions growing a bit more sensitive. Whatever the case may be, parenting and helping your child become an emotionally stable person are careful, specific tasks that should always be approached with love and care. Regulating emotions can be a lofty task, especially when kids are still growing and changing. However, you can help your child build the skills they need to tackle it head-on into the future.
Every child is different — if you have multiple kids, they might each need specific, centralized attention directed at their needs. Just like you are learning how your kids operate, they are learning their own systems and needs, and that’s a process that can take time. Throughout this process, it’s important that they have good examples and solid support that they can turn to when they need help, and luckily, you’re there to offer that. Here are a few ways that you can help your children regulate their emotions.
1. Model Positive Skills
One of the best ways to begin laying the foundation for your children to learn emotional regulation is to model those skills through your own behavior. Obviously, children and adults have different capacities for emotion regulation, but seeing how Mom and Dad do it can be a great source of inspiration. Kids naturally like to copy what their parents do, and you can use that inclination to lead them in a positive direction.
2. Teach Communication
Another great way to help children regulate their emotions in more productive ways is to teach them communication skills so they can relate to others — including you — without resorting to outbursts. While everyone has outbursts from time to time, children often use them to communicate if they have no other way to do so. However, when they learn to use their words and feel empowered in conversations, it can make emotional regulation much easier.
3. Foster Expression
However, just like we want to encourage communication, sometimes, kids will need to be kids, and that includes a range of emotional expression techniques. While school-aged kids may use empathy and independence to express their needs and feelings, younger children may still be learning patience and verbal skills. No matter where your child sits on the spectrum, allowing them to express their emotions and let things out can sometimes be more helpful than you realize.
4. Use Play
Play is a great way to allow your children to express themselves in a healthy, encouraging environment. Whether you use independent play or socialized play — or a combination of the two — children often need outlets for their energy and imaginations, and simply encouraging them to go wild in some areas of life can be a great way to show them the emotional variation they can experience.
5. Remember — Children Should Be Emotional
This one is a good reminder for all parents, although it can sometimes be easy to forget. Often, society pushes the idea that the best child is one who is “well-behaved” and quiet — a child who never runs around and makes noise. However, many studies have shown that forcing children to be cooped up and silent isn’t good for their emotional development. There’s a big difference between productive emotional regulation and emotional repression, and that difference can be critical. Just like adults, kids need to cry and yell sometimes, even if there isn’t a perfectly logical reason. Remember, emotional regulation is about working from the inside out, not about shoving things down.
6. Teach Them Stress Detection
One of the best ways to regulate emotional reactions is to know yourself — and this can start from a very early age. You may already know your child’s stress responses, and if you do, you can make it easier for them to notice those responses, too. Teach them to detect stress when they feel it bubbling up. That way, they can learn to communicate and regulate before an outburst, rather than after it’s already happening.
7. Offer Calming Techniques
Each child is different, which means that they’ll likely respond uniquely to calming techniques that work for them. In order to figure out which calming techniques are best for your child, you can try a few different options in your household and keep a few in your back pocket for overwhelming moments. Everything from breathing exercises to mindfulness and meditation can work wonders for kids in distress — and who knows, you may just get some peace out of it, too.
8. Help Them Feel Safe
As a parent, one of your main roles in your child’s life is to help them feel safe and supported. This can take different forms depending on the child, but reminding them that you’re there for them, telling them that you love them and offering physical affection like hugs can be great methods for grounding and support. Communicate with your child and see what they need from you.
Helping Your Child Regulate Emotions
Learning emotional regulation is a lifelong process, but you can help your kids get started as early as possible, so they’re prepared to navigate and communicate in the world around them. Just like adults, kids each have their own needs, and as a parent you can help provide support for those needs, all while teaching your child how to support themselves. Does your family have a favorite calming technique?