Emotional Regulation In Children

The elusive green dragon for many parents.

In today’s society, and particularly over the past little while, there has been a critical lack of socio-emotional skill development in children. You don’t need to be anything more than an observant individual to realize how much damage has been done to children’s and teen’s social and emotional well-being and development over the past 24 months.

 While I am not a psychologist, a psychiatrist, or a counselor, I don’t need to be an expert to be able to read statistics off of a government website, or to speak from experience. Kids are not okay. The masks and social distancing, whatever perceived advantages that they provide, have absolutely furthered a sense of isolation, separatism, and caused a host of communication-related challenges.

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This has caused a massive inability in both children and teenagers to regulate their own emotions. The causes of this come from a variety of factors, but the largest contributor is the lack of natural and meaningful interaction with others, including those within their own age range. The biggest problem with the lack of regulation in children and young adults is the inability to handle intense emotions and feelings. My personal opinion on that one: the events of the last 2 years have contributed to severe emotional distress and the rise of anxiety and depression – the 2 most common mental health challenges within the last 2 years.

So how do we attempt to mitigate the damage that's been done? That's a long, long road, but let's start with what you can control immediately - yourself.

Teaching children to self-regulate means you must model that behavior to them.

That does not mean hiding your emotions. There’s a difference between regulating your emotions and hiding them, either from others or from yourself. But emotional regulation for adults is just as hard, if not harder, as it is for children. 

For the adults wondering how to manage, I've got some helpful advice that may provide some insight.

1) Treat it as a learning experience, and grow with your child, rather than hiding from them.

 Remember there is no such thing as perfect. You are going to mess up, and so is your child. Nothing needs to be perfect - you just need to be trying. Treat every situation as a learning opportunity, and as a chance to grow. Practice makes progress, as I like to say. Effective communication plays a large role in this. 

2) Communicate with your child, honestly.

Inter and intra communication is key here. Effective communication is one of the most important pieces for a strong relationship with your child, and is what I would call a cornerstone of emotional regulation. Remember that your job as a parent is to be there, and to guide them, but it doesn’t mean you aren’t human too, or that you can’t be honest with them.

 3) Find your tribe, and your child's tribe.

 Keep in mind that every child is different. Some children need quiet or alone time, others need physical or verbal reassurance, and some need physical activity as an outlet. But no matter what your situation, or your child's, there are other parents and children feeling the same sorts of feelings, who need the same sort of outlet. Isn't it better done with like-minded individuals?

There is no solid solution that is going to work 100% of the time. Remember, we are all just trying to do our best, and it's important to be realistic with each other and with ourselves. The key takeaway I'd want to leave you with?

Stop trying to be perfect for your kids. They need you, as their parent, just as you are.


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