It’s part of growing up to have the capacity to self- regulate and manage our emotions as well as other states such as sleep and eating. In this blog, we will be focussing on emotional regulation. Do you remember your parents managing your emotions? What do you do to self-regulate?
I am sure you have witnessed a tantrum or two in your time. It’s something that we can expect from 18 months up to 3. Some children may continue into school age and beyond and this can be why parents seek help.
What is Self/Emotional Regulation?
Self-regulation is the capacity to manage your emotions and behaviour in accordance with the demands of the situation. It includes being able to read others emotions and have the capacity to calm/self soothe when you get upset or be flexible to a change in an expectation or routine.
When does it start?
It starts fairly quickly from birth. Children don’t have the capacity to manage big feelings until the age of four onwards, so hold that in mind when you get fed up with your three-year-old. A baby’s first emotional experience comes from you. Your baby experiences strong feelings and sensations and can’t understand what is going on, you help him by trying to understand him, by comforting him and explaining those feelings for him. You must be tired or oh, you must be hungry, by mirroring their feelings you are helping them to feel contained and understood.
You soothe the baby so they can calm down and relax. Sometimes they start to learn to do this for themselves, this is what we mean by self- soothing/regulation. This is a process that continues for a long time ( up until 25) and helps your child feel safe and secure. In the architecture of the brain, interconnections can be fixed in their higher/rational mind (these are neurons trying to fix). When we develop the capacity in our higher mind, we can think, reflect, understand and manage our emotions.
Why do some children struggle?
Many children are born with a certain temperament, they may be harder to soothe as babies. The environment can play a part too in combination with a neurodevelopmental disorders such as ADHD and ASC, or processing and learning issues such as Dyslexia or Dyspraxia. Anxiety plays a part too, some children are born with a sensitive Amygdala. Many parents unitionally prevent their children from learning to self regulate. They may give in to tantrums or work overtime to soothe their children when they get upset and act out.
When do I need to be worried?
Each child’s brain develop at different rates. A three year old is going to have less capacity to think than a 7 year old. All children present with emotional dysregulation at times and this is perfectly normal. You may be concerned if:
- Do you feel the behaviour is developmentally appropriate.?
- Is it impacting at home as well as at school.?
- Do you feel the behaviour occurs with no triggers.?
- Does it last for hours and you cannot help them in the moment?.
Clinicians often look at the child’s developmental history and age, temperament, level of intensity and duration. All factors need to be taken into consideration to make a formulation. Please understand that no child wants tension or purposely wants to behave in a certain way. They often don’t choose to behave in school and behave differently at home and I am sure neither do you.
What Can I do?
Seek help if you are worried and for some tips on emotional regulation, you can download my top ten tips in case you missed it before. All my workshops have at their core, ideas you can implement to enable your child to regulate, so I will be looking forward to meeting you there or book a consultation.
Following this blog several parents have contacted me regarding the difficulties and task of trying to regulate their emotions whilst attending to their child’s without breaking the connection or hurting each other. This is one of the biggest parenting tasks and I will be posting more throughout the year and sharing in workshops.
In the interim, there is an excellent website, Centre for Clinical Interventions that offers a whole course free to help adults/teenagers to understand emotional dysregulation and manage distress. This works for some, but sometimes we just need another mind to help us. With Love and Respect Catherine
Click on the link below http://www.cci.health.wa.gov.au/resources/infopax.cfm?Info_ID=54