Children undergo a series of changes when they grow older. Whether it’s physical or psychological, these changes can help shape their worldview and how they fit into society.
Regarding psychological changes, children are often emotional when faced with new experiences or have immediate needs. For instance, newborn babies cry if they’re hungry or feel cold, while toddlers throw tantrums because they don’t want to nap!
While these emotional expressions are typical for their age, there are some benefits to teaching children emotional regulation early.
What is Emotional Regulation?
In positive psychology, emotional regulation is a process in which a person influences their emotions when they have them and how they experience and express them.
There are three aspects of emotional regulation, these are:
- Initiating actions triggered by emotions;
- Inhibiting actions triggered by emotions; and
- Modulating responses triggered by emotions.
The final instance is the best option because it involves conscious rewiring of the brain and controlling one’s emotional response concerning context and situation. The last one is also ideal because it can help a person socialize better without the risk of harming others and themselves.
What are the benefits of children learning to manage their emotions?
There are many benefits to teaching children emotional regulation. One is that, according to research, children who manage their emotions well tend to do better in school. Another is that children get along with others and create stable social bonds without risking alienation. Emotional regulation is also essential for moral development, which helps guide children in making informed decisions between right and wrong.
With these benefits in mind, it’s clear that adults, specifically parents, teachers, and caregivers, should teach children how to manage their emotions as early as possible. However, when faced with such a task, it may feel daunting since it’s an ongoing process.
Nevertheless, expert psychologists reveal the critical steps in teaching children emotional regulation, so they can grow up to become well-adjusted adults. Here are some ways to teach children emotional regulation:
1. Show them proper behavior.
Children learn through observation. One way of getting kids to model proper behavior is to demonstrate what is appropriate and what isn’t. When teaching children how to handle unpleasant emotions, showing that only positivity will help combat stressors is essential.
2. Teach them to delay response time.
Encourage children to avoid giving immediate reactions. When a child gets angry or upset, ask them to hold back for a while and react after that. This little trick allows them to settle their “fight-or-flight” response, preventing them from responding too intensely in the future.
3. Expand a child’s vocabulary on emotions.
The frustration that comes with being unable to verbalize one’s emotions can be a stressful experience. One way to help children become masters of their feelings is to teach them the different spectrums of emotions, so they can better identify their feelings with words. One tip is that having a chart with various emotional expressions may be helpful so children can identify the different experiences and become vigilant with them. Having such a chart can be a great tool in case a child wants to say something but cannot express themselves with words.
4. Allow them to self-express.
Self-expression is necessary to encourage a child’s emotional growth while tapping into their creative side. For instance, if they feel sad, frustrated, or angry, encourage them to express themselves at their pace and let them process these feelings without hurting themselves or others. When children learn to verbalize their feelings, they become less likely to react in hostile ways. Adults should also teach them there’s nothing wrong with experiencing negative emotions provided they express it harmlessly.
5. Teach them about actions and consequences.
Emotions are normal, but our reactions can cause us to do things we regret if we don’t stop and think about them. When a child is aware their actions bring consequences, they become less likely to react the same way in the future. Teaching children about actions and consequences also helps them become more responsible for themselves as they interact with others.
6. Be patient.
Managing one’s emotions is a process that requires some time and practice. Parents and teachers must remain patient throughout the entire duration as a child learns what is acceptable versus what is not. When a child models good behavior, remember to praise them to let them know it’s ideal. In contrast, when they do something wrong, use this as a teaching opportunity to correct such behavior and show them how to improve next time.
7. Keep your expectations realistic.
In conjunction with being patient, it also helps parents and teachers keep their expectations realistic. When teaching emotional regulation, expect some mistakes and setbacks to occur. In addition to setbacks, remember that children also do not have a broad vocabulary, so if you ask them to explain themselves, they may be unable to do so calmly and rationally.
8. Take charge when necessary.
When dealing with an emotional child, allow them time to breathe and calm down before discussing things. If you have a handy emotions chart, ask them to point out the facial expression they felt during a particular scenario. This technique can help bridge any communication gaps along the way.
In addition, it may be helpful to also teach the child to identify the cause of their reaction. When a child is upset, angry, frustrated, or sad—consider their experience and ask whether such events triggered their emotions. This exercise helps children become aware of what causes them discomfort and how they can handle it better next time.
Summary: Emotional regulation is a necessary skill that benefits people of all ages. Children who learn to manage their emotions early receive more benefits than children who don’t. These benefits include better school performance, stronger social ties, and improved moral development.
However, when teaching children how to manage their emotions, parents, and teachers should remember to be patient and keep their expectations realistic. Adults should also be conscious of their actions since children are keen observers. These children will eventually learn to become self-assured and emotionally stable adults with time and patience.