What is Emotion Regulation and why do we need it?

Father and son sitting on parent stool, talking. ‘Emotion regulation’ is a term used to describe how we manage our feelings in response to arousing situations. As adults, we know that it can sometimes be difficult to manage our emotions. For children, this can be even more challenging. This is because the majority of adults have learnt the skills to cope with their feelings effectively, whereas kids haven’t gotten the hang of it yet.

Being able to effectively regulate emotions is an important skill and benefits many areas of a child’s life. It helps children pay more attention, work more effectively, and achieve more in school. Additionally, they are better able to resolve conflicts with their peers and they are calmer.

Like walking, talking and toilet training, emotion regulation is a developmental achievement that must be learnt. Although children’s ability to regulate their emotions is influenced by genetics and temperament, parents and families also contribute to this skill.

Here are some ways that you can help-

  • Provide stability and consistency- consistent limits and clear rules help to create a secure environment where children can safely develop emotional resources
  • Talk freely about your feelings- using the language of feelings with your children helps them learn to accurately identify emotions and model coping strategies
  • Encourage children to talk freely about feelings- it is crucial that children understand that feelings are real and important. While it’s not always OK to act on their feelings, it is always OK to talk about them.
  • Encourage appropriate expressions of feelings- it’s important that children know that their feelings are okay, that there are different way of expressing them and that they have a choice in how they react. Teaching children to voice their feelings in ways that are assertive and not hostile.

Things that you should know-

  • Don’t be alarmed if, after a period of progress with managing their emotions, children revert. Progress is marked by spurts, regressions, consolidation and further growth.
  • Parents are human too! We all make mistakes. The important thing is that your children see you continuing to learn and cope in more effective ways.
  • Emotion regulation is a skill and, like all skills, need regular practice in order to improve.

Sometimes, even with our best intentions, children may still find it difficult to regulate their emotions which may lead to disruptions in their day to day life. These things can be too big to handle alone. If you feel like this resonates for you and you want more information, we would love to help you. Please call us on (02) 9525 8443.