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How to teach emotional regulation in kids

AshesofStars profile image

Me again! My 5 yr old has big feelings, and she says she just can't help it and once they get started she doesn't know how to stop. Can anyone recommend what has helped for learning emotional regulation? I really don't know how to help her with this and the whole family is struggling. Thank you!!!

5 Replies

That’s a tough question. I had undiagnosed adhd for 40 years and never really learned emotional control. However, the second I realized I had adhd and started to understand what it was, that alone helped! Once I realized I had a processing disorder, I realized I wasn’t processing my feelings or emotions until they hit, for me, overwhelming frustration. Now, what happened may not have been something that causes overwhelming frustration but what was happening was that I was moving through the other feelings so quickly that I wasn’t registering them. So maybe someone takes her toy and she feels, almost instantly, disappointed it’s gone, then lonely cause she misses it, then angry at the person who took it, then sad because they’re bigger than her, then disappointed in herself because she’s scare fo them, then scared to say something to them, then frustrated because she should at least say something but doesn’t know what to say, then starts to cry because she feeling overwhelmed by all the other feelings she’s having and hides in her room devastated or punches the other child in the face, pushes over other toys and throws them and then yells about something else that happened earlier in the day and retreats. This of course could go a lot of different ways depending on the child. And children in general, aren’t good with controlling emotions. We with adhd just have bigger emotions which makes them look less controlled. A psychologist with CBT would be a good idea but I think there is lots you could do. Help her label feelings. When you know she’s feeling something, even something small, tell her what it is and why she’s feeling it. Read her cues, do you see her getting to a point of frustration? Ask he what’s happening. Try to ask pointed questions and add feeling labels. Use your intuition. Often, it’s not one thing that puts us over the edge. Though one thing certainly can! So even when something small happens, don’t underestimate the impact it may have had on her. She may think about it all day and become more and more bothered by the small thing as the day goes by. Promote her to write things down. She is too young but you’re not. Sit at the table and construct simple sentences on something that happened and how she felt. Brain took my toy. I want it. That’s not nice. It made me upset. Next time, I will tell mommy. You can construct most of this. But let her try to offer words. Without too much pressure.

This will eventually promote her to write her own feelings out which is really good for us. This can also help her sleep at night, if she feels like things got resolved. But definitely a psychologist would have great pointers for you on this.

I hope this helps.

This is so hard. My 15-year-old still struggles with this at times! As IgnoranceWasNotBliss said, labeling her feelings for her can help. I would go beyond that to teaching her to recognize the bodily sensations in her body that go along with those feelings. Listening to My Body by Gabi Garcia is a great children’s book for this (there’s a read aloud on YouTube you could listen if you want to preview it). As I mentioned in your other post, teaching her mindfulness skills can also help with this, and she is a great age to start with. It does take lots of practice, so the younger she starts to learn, the better! Talk to her about what makes her feel relaxed and come up with a plan together for ways she can calm down once she starts having those big feelings (e.g., I can take a break in my room, watch my favorite show, cuddle with my stuffed animal, talk to mom, etc.). And let her know that all feelings are OK, it’s what we do with them that’s important. :-)

There was a post today mentioning RSD (reflection sensitivity dysphoria). Just reminded me it’s a good think to know about. Almost all people with adhd have this to one degree or another. It’s important to have a general understanding of it when it comes to mood regulation. If you aren’t the one with adhd, it can be hard to understand the depth in which we feel certain things, which then can cause us to seem emotionally unstable or over reactors or overly sensitive, but understanding that it’s real to us and felt so deeply that we can then rework our lives to avoid it, is good to know. It can help you not get as frustrated or upset when she’s having a hard time controlling her feelings. It can also help you pin point what may have happened. Whether is was real or perceived. Becomes for her, perceived is the same as real.

I found the book 'Self-Reg' by Dr. Stuart Shanker extremely helpful. He focuses a lot on the limbic system and the role stress plays in our kids crap impulse control. Essentially there's a big difference between self-control and self-regulation. Self control is about willpower, self-regulation goes a lot deeper. It was actually very eye-opening I wish I had read it when my daughter was younger. Some of the kids in the book I swear they're talking about my daughter. Good luck. Hug

I already commented... twice :) but came across something called calming bottles. If you haven’t heard of them you should check it out! I saw it on an adhd girls YouTube channel How to ADHD. She made a homemade glitter calming bottle. It was very easy. The child (or you) shakes it to “let some anger out” and then watches the glitter twirl, which helps calm them down because it distracts them. I’m going to make one for my son. It was cute.

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