What is Emotion Regulation for Children?

The ability to control and organize emotions doesn’t mean elimination of negative emotions or turning them into a positive emotion. Emotion regulation can be in a positive or negative direction, but it means keeping sentimental dynamics at an optimum level and being able to respond circumstances with harmony. If we define it with more details, we can understand that the ability to organize emotions is quite complicated actually. It means, realizing emotions, understanding and accepting them. It also requires the ability to control own behaviours, accepting negative emotions when working for a purpose or adjusting emotional reaction according to the environment.

Studies after 90s generally show that children’s emotional problems might be caused by inability of emotional regulation. Researches in the last few years show that “ability to regulate emotions” is sentimental for emotional health.

Why emotional regulation is important for children?

Children who are able to organize their emotions are more careful, patient and successful. Moreover, they are better at finding solutions when they have a problem with their peers and more capable to manage stress during facing a problem.

What can parents do for emotion regulation?

Developing a healthy emotion regulation skills depends on the relationship children develop with their parents. Babies learn a healthy emotion regulation when parents understand and fulfil their needs. When children feel understood, they can handle disappointment, anger and sadness better when they face a difficult situation. The key for a healthy emotion regulation development is realizing child’s individuality, allowing her/his efforts for independence and understanding his/hers emotions during early childhood period, which also called “terrible two” or “autonomy”.

Strategies for emotion regulation

Trying to know and understand who the child really is, respecting his struggle to become an individual, avoiding accusations and trusting him build a strong basis for self-confidence. Understanding and respecting child’s emotions, wishes and thoughts, even how negative they are, build necessary skills for empathy and the ability for child to understand other’s emotions as well. Of course it is necessary to say “no” to children and putting some boundaries. However, parents should pay attention to limit the negative behaviour, not supressing emotions. For example, saying “don’t cry” or “there is no need to be sad” to a crying child because his demand is rejected might create shame for crying or need to hide crying. In the future, child might not fully learn how to regulate his negative feelings because he tends to hide them.

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