Oftentimes as parents, it is easy to forget that children are tiny humans with the capacity to think and feel just like we do. However, they lack the skill set to regulate their feelings until they learn how to do so successfully. As parents, you may wonder what you can do to teach your child how to handle their feelings. So, keep reading to find out about three ways to help your child self-regulate their emotions.
1. Verbally Validate Your Child’s Feelings
This step may be different at various ages, but you can implement it at the age-appropriate level. For example, if you have a toddler who is throwing a tantrum, they may be frustrated because they can’t verbalize their needs or feelings. But by verbalizing what your toddler is feeling, you can help them find the words to express their emotions. At the same time, you are also strengthening their confidence that you to have the patience to help give them those words.
For an older child that can verbalize their feelings, it helps to hear you validate how they are feeling. Saying something as simple as, “I understand,” can have an enormously calming effect. This is the best way to help your child learn to self-regulate their emotions.
For example, “Suzy, I can see you are upset because you are crying and have your fists clenched. I understand you are feeling disappointed and upset because it is time to turn the TV off and go to bed. It is okay to feel sad when you have to stop doing something fun. But it is also important to be respectful of the rules at bedtime.”
2. Praise Your Child When They Self-Regulate
Positive reinforcement is your best friend as a parent. Verbalizing and validating your child’s feelings or current state of emotion will help them see you as a coach rather than an opposing player. Once this happens, it is important to recognize your child’s positive steps toward identifying their current emotions and choosing an appropriate reaction.
These reactions will also be age-specific. They could include anything from a toddler reigning in their tantrum to your kindergartener calming themselves down after being upset about the end of TV time. By knowing they have your support, your child can move from being upset to feeling calm and ready to move forward.
3. Recap the Day Before Bed
For older children, it can be extremely beneficial to revisit a situation at the end of the day. Once they have calmed down, they may feel ready to talk about it. In the above example with the kindergartener, it may be as simple as talking about her day. This is the easiest way to help your child self-regulate their emotions.
Add in something along the lines of, “Do you remember when you were upset about it being time to turn off the TV? I was proud of how you took a couple of deep breaths and then went on to brush your teeth. You did a great job of getting ready for bed tonight.”
By recapping the situation, you reinforce how you understand that she was disappointed and felt upset. But, you are also ending the conversation on a high note. Complimenting the great job she did at controlling her anger helps you positively reinforce the desired self-regulation.
This will show your child that you care about them when they are feeling upset. Also, you show how you recognize the positive steps they are taking toward regulating those strong feelings. Being able to do so will help your children for the rest of their lives.
It is important to remember that children can have a “bad day,” just like adults. Also, these tips are not one-size-fits-all. Only you know what is best for your child. However, these three steps will help your child self-regulate their emotions.