Helping Children Navigate Their Emotions

In the last few years, we have been living in a period of unpredictability. With this comes a lot of anxiety in our children. As parents we want our children to grow up to be curious, compassionate, courageous, caring, and creative (the 5 Cs).  Emotion regulation is the ability to exert control over one’s own emotional state. We are born with the capacity to experience both positive and negative emotions. As children, we may not grasp the idea that we can control our emotions or how quickly these emotions and behaviours come and go. A child who has not had a chance to work through negative emotion may continue to deal with outbursts past the age of 5. For instance, if a child is being sent to their room, they might refuse to go when their parents ask them to because to them, that would be validation of their negative feelings about themselves. In other words, “If I am sent to my room, I must be bad.” They may also be trying to avoid having to deal with negative emotions alone. For this reason, as a therapist I would prefer to work with a parent to assist them in developing and utilizing coaching skills instead of resorting to punishment. When a child feels safe to explore and learn instead of avoiding the situation out of fear, they can learn to rely on themselves.

If you are trying to work on your child’s emotional regulation, it could be helpful to work with a psychotherapist. Together you can help your child to practice mindful acceptance of emotions, acknowledging and labelling emotions using an emotion wheel, shifting attention away from the source of negative emotions, or reframing emotional situations (i.e., thinking about setbacks or mistakes as opportunities to learn).

9 Powerful Parenting Coaching Expressions

1.   It is ok to feel the way you do, and it is ok to let our emotions out.

2.   I understand that you are angry, but it is not okay to hit your brother/sister.

3.    I get how you are feeling, and I will stay with you.

4.    Tomorrow is a new day.

5.    I will be right here when you need me.

6.    As quickly as you felt this way it will pass.

7.    You are a kind and generous person, who has a lot of other people that care about them.

8.    What is the lesson we can learn from this?

9.    You’ll remember next time.

Thus, by being able to remain in the present and not avoiding intense or negative emotions children will experience tough times, but they will learn that these times will pass and how best to get through and learn from them. Now isn’t this what it means to be resilient?

Heather Montgomery is a Registered Psychotherapist (Qualifying) with the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario. One of Heather’s areas of specialization includes parenting. Heather uses evidence-based modalities and an integrative approach in order to help his clients receive treatment that is personalized to their unique needs.

DISCLAIMER: This blog is meant for psychoeducational purposes only. Intended solely to provide you with information and is not meant to take the place of therapy.

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