Self-regulation is processing and managing emotions, feelings, and behaviors in order to complete tasks or accomplish goals. For some students, this may come naturally, as it’s often developed and reinforced at an early age. But for some students, understanding and controlling emotions is no easy task.
If your child struggles in this area, here are a few ways to help him or her learn to self-regulate:
1. Listen to what your child expresses and identify the potential triggers.
Sometimes children, especially younger children, struggle to recognize what’s bothering or upsetting them, let alone express them to others! Sit down with your child when he or she is upset and try to understand the rationale or reasoning. Be sure to validate your child’s feelings, even if they don’t quite make sense.
As you listen, identify areas that may be triggering. For example, if your child has a breakdown over math homework, discover the reasoning. Is it because he wants to play video games with friends rather than doing the work? Because she’s overwhelmed with the number of problems? Because he doesn’t know where to begin?
When you identify the trigger, you can help to avoid or ‘buffer’ it to make it less overwhelming to your child. You can also help your child learn to identify these triggers on their own, too, which can help them shift into controlling their emotions as opposed to being controlled by them.
2. Provide opportunities for self-advocacy.
Learning to self-regulate isn’t easy, but it can happen when your child feels like he or she has the space and confidence to express him/herself. Start by providing opportunities for him or her to share what’s on their mind. If there’s flexibility in a routine, for example, give your child options:
“You have six math problems to do tonight. You can play games with your friends for an hour and then do the homework before dinner, or you can do them now and have the time before dinner to play. You pick.”
Although this may be simple, giving your child room to choose will help him or her self-advocate. Be sure to remind your child that he/she can (and should) ask for help as well. Make yourself available, too, because asking for help will probably need prompting in the beginning.
3. Help your child pay attention to his or her ‘warning signs’ and learn ways to effectively share them with others.
As you identify things that trigger your child, encourage him or her to look for warning signs, too. Are they feeling frustrated? Feel their temperature rise? Fists clench? Sweating? These are small, but pressing signs that a breakdown is right around the corner.
Help your child to notice these feelings and signs, and feel empowered to ask for a break when necessary to reset.
4. Offer options over meltdowns.
Rather than getting to the point of an explosion, help your child learn his or her options: take a break, take a walk, put my head down, ask for a drink of water, deep breathing, etc. When you show your child that he or she has choices, it can help him/her to self-regulate, consider options, and take an alternative route over a meltdown.
Want to learn more about self-regulation and managing emotions?
Click here to read our post on Executive Functioning and how to get your child the help he or she needs! If you have questions or want to schedule an Educational Therapy session for your child give us a call at (858) 367-5428!