How to Teach Emotional Regulation & Impulse Control to Kids & Teens
What is emotional regulation?
Emotional regulation means managing and processing painful emotions in a productive way.
To regulate our emotions, we must be able to recognize our feelings and delay our reactions to stressful situations until we have attempted to process our thoughts and feelings productively.
If we can identify our stressful emotions, we can use strategies to shift our mood into a positive state.
Below are some examples of how different emotions can be recognized or felt in our bodies.
What does happiness feel like?
When we are happy we feel light, calm, content, and peaceful. Happiness allows you to feel your positive emotions and keeps your painful emotions at bay.
You can feel happy for a period of time, or have an overall feeling of happiness most times.
How often do you feel happy? What is calming to you? What is peaceful to you? What do you find enjoyable.educationandbehavior.com
What does anxiety feel like?
How does anger feel in the body?
How does sadness feel in the body?
How do we handle our difficult or painful emotions?
When you notice the physical sensations that seem to be attached to your difficult emotions, take time to process those feelings and work through them before deciding how to react.
Be there for yourself while you experience these feelings, just as you would for someone you love. You deserve the same treatment. Listen to your feelings.
Once you feel you have processed and worked through difficult emotions, you may decide to address the situation differently than you would have initially.
Yelling at people, blaming others or yourself, endless arguments, negative thoughts about yourself, and impulsive decisions based on emotion are unhealthy for your emotional and physical well-being.
This is why it is necessary to have positive ways to handle life’s challenges. It is better for you physically and mentally to shift to positive strategies to cope with the common problems we all face at one point or another.
Regulating your emotions can reduce stress, improve relationships, and increase resilience and happiness.
Here are Five Key Research-Based Findings on Emotional Regulation:
1. The skill or willingness to regulate one’s emotions is influenced by various factors such as the individual’s personality, history, support system, resources, and culture.
2. Individuals who struggle with emotional regulation may be at higher risk for substance abuse, self-harm, harm to others, etc. That is why we must teach youth how to handle and effectively cope with difficult emotions.
3. Youth with mental health needs often struggle to manage their emotions. Giving extra time and attention to those at risk or diagnosed with mental health conditions is important.
4. Individuals who are better at regulating emotions have lower rates of depression, anxiety, and other psychological disorders.
5. You can improve your emotional regulation skills by practicing one or more of the following strategies:
- cognitive reappraisal is a strategy where an individual is taught to identify the negative thoughts that are contributing to their emotional state and then to replace those thoughts with more positive, realistic ones (e.g., “my friends are mad at me, and I’ll never find new friends” can be reappraised and rephrased as “those kids may not be the best fit for me, but I know if I am patient, I will meet new friends that I will click with better.”)
- mindfulness meditation (which can be done in five minutes or less) means allowing and accepting your thoughts without any attachment or desire to change them while focusing on one specific thing .
- emotion-focused therapy (EFT): EFT focuses on the emotional experiences of individuals and how they express and regulate their emotions. EFT aims to help individuals identify and understand their emotional experiences and develop more adaptive ways of expressing and regulating emotions.
- expressive writing: writing about one’s emotions and experiences can help individuals better understand and process their emotions.
- remaining physically active – even if it’s just in two-minute increments (e.g., dancing, walking, playing a sport)
- joining groups or clubs to meet people with shared interests and build social support
Additional Information About Emotional Regulation
It is important to note that different strategies may work better for specific individuals and situations. It may take some trial and error to find the strategies that work best.
A mental health professional can also help you learn effective emotional regulation techniques.
It can be hard to find a good fit when seeking a counselor, so be patient and only work with a professional you feel comfortable with.
If you are second-guessing your care or treatment, seek a new therapist.
There are also several Youtube videos for self-help for kids and teens.
Educationandbehavior.com – Keeping Adults on the Same Page for Kids!
Rachel Wise is the author and founder of Education and Behavior. Rachel created Education and Behavior in 2014 for adults to have an easy way to access research-based information to support children in the areas of learning, behavior, and social-emotional development. As a survivor of abuse, neglect, and bullying, Rachel slipped through the cracks of her school and community. Education and Behavior hopes to play a role in preventing that from happening to other children. Rachel is also the author of Building Confidence and Improving Behavior in Children: A Guide for Parents and Teachers.
“Children do best when there is consistency within and across settings (i.e., home, school, community). Education and Behavior allows us to maintain that consistency.”