Helping your Child Regulate Emotions

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in this video I'm going to talk about

how you can help your child or teen

regulate emotion so emotion regulation

means that a person can subjectively

tolerate distressing emotion such as

fear sadness guilt or anger without

being flooded or incapacitated by the

feeling or having to disconnect from it

by way of distraction dissociation or

intellectualization children that are

unable to effectively regulate their

emotion tend to suffer from temper

tantrums or emotional meltdowns or they

might be just excessively rigid or

avoidant or anxious about emotional

vulnerability or expression that may

also experience difficulty connecting

deeply with others or seeking them out

for emotional support which is an

important part of psychological

resilience of course children and teens

and even adults with a low capacity for

emotion regulation are going to be at

higher risk for depression anxiety and

other mental health related issues now

it's important to understand that a

child's capacity for emotion regulation

is largely dependent on how parents

habitually respond to a child in

emotional distress so you might check

out my video on attachment to get a

deeper understanding of why that is in

this video I'm going to give some

guidelines for parents on how to respond

to a child who is upset first by

suggesting some things that you

generally want to avoid your own

emotional response is very important so

parents who have a low tolerance for

vulnerable feelings will sometimes get

frustrated annoyed or even angry when

the kid becomes emotional so they might

they might yell or even say things like

you keep it up and I'll give you

something to cry about

and if this happens often enough the

child is probably going to internalize

emotion or feel anxious that they'll be

punished or even shamed for feeling the

way that they do and all this is going

to hinder their ability to experience

tolerate and express their feeling

in contrast to an agitated response some

parents will actually get panicky or

anxious or will themselves become

overwhelmed when their kid is expressing

and distressing feeling of vulnerability

and this is another sign that the parent

is not able to effectively regulate

their own emotions it's it's not helpful

response because the child's feelings

are now complicated by a concern for the

parents well-being and the child may

even feel guilty for making the parent

feel bad and if this happens often

enough the child will tend to be anxious

about expressing themselves and may even

develop a guilt complex about seeking

out others for support or for help

parents should also avoid dismissing

their child's feelings through

rationalization so for example saying

things like you know it's not that bad

other kids have it far worse or look

there's no reason for you to feel this

way even though such comments are

sometimes true so for example there's

always going to be someone in the world

who has it worse responses like this are

ultimately unhelpful because they're

dismissing or invalidating and in many

ways we'll leave the child feeling a lot

worse over time the child may develop an

intuitive sense that their feelings are

irrelevant that they may themselves also

learn to dismiss them or feel ashamed

for having certain kinds of feelings a

final response that you generally want

to avoid at least initially is one that

appeals to rational problem-solving or

advice giving it tends not to help with

emotion regulation and can actually

cause frustration or agitation as you

kid is likely in a sense that you know

you just don't get it it also encourages

them to intellectualize about their

feelings that is to think about their

feelings without necessarily being

connected to the physical experience of

them and this may provide some

short-term early

but it does little in the way of

developing those emotion regulation

skills that I'm talking about or

emotional intelligence so for the same

reasons you want to avoid encouraging

your child to just distract themselves

from what they're feeling so for example

reminding them that it's a beautiful day

outside and maybe they should go outside

and play or buying them a toy or video

game to keep their minds busy or

distracted these kinds of things are

okay to use in moderation but it's

generally preferable to use them only

after you acknowledge and validate the

feelings that they might be experiencing

okay so having listed some of the things

to avoid doing what is the more

appropriate way to respond to a child in

emotional distress well first your

nonverbal communication is is actually

probably the most important part and it

should generally convey concern interest

and empathy so eye contact is obviously

very important as well as having just

soft facial expressions not angry or

tense or flat and and to have like an

open posture remember that this is

really not you know a list of things to

remember but it's more of an attitude

that you want to convey so you know

don't get too caught up in you know

immediate urges to kind of problem

solver fix whatever you feel like the

issue is that can come much later rather

the attitude that you want to have is

just a tenacious you know curiosity for

what your child is experiencing and you

know this desire to ensure that however

bad it is that they're not feeling it

alone if your kid feels sad it's it's

also important to keep in mind that you

know it's okay to get a little bit misty

eyed or feel sad for them and in many

cases is actually a good thing because

it allows your child to experience

themselves being felt by another person

they sense that their emotions map

and so today making whatever they're

experiencing that much easier to bear

that said if you have a sense that your

kid is feeling bad for making you feel

bad you might need to ask them if this

is the case and and clarify so you know

reassure them that you don't feel

burdened by sharing them sharing their

feelings and remind them that you know

it'd be more upsetting to think that

they were sad hurting or suffering all

alone or without you knowing about it

so the second thing that you want to do

is ensure that you express verbal

validation and sometimes this just comes

from asking questions so you know when

did you start to feel this way how long

has it been you know has it always been

this bad you know what else do you feel

about it verbal interest or curiosity is

validation since you presumably feel

like the issue is important enough to

explore it more depth and this is why

it's important not to just kind of sit

there not saying anything and kind of

leaving your kid hanging asking

questions can also help ground your kid

a little bit more by highlighting the

context around what they're experiencing

so if they're extremely unraveled this

might actually be the preferred approach

however you also want to avoid overdoing

this kind of verbal engagement to the

point where it may actually disrupt the

ability to stay connected with the

visceral feeling sometimes it's just

enough to to give a loving embrace or an

empathic look and I think sometimes

parents you know forget this okay so the

last thing and one that probably comes

most naturally to a lot of parents is to

engage in some kind of advice giving our

problem solving so you generally want to

avoid going here until after you suspect

that your child feels validated in other

words they feel like their emotions

matter to you and that they move you in

some way this should be easy for parents

who are connected to their own feelings

and are able to to regulate those

feelings a little bit harder for

others so once you sense that they feel

validated your child is going to be in a

much better place to problem-solve or be

open to advice or suggestions and you

may find that they're going to be very

closed off from doing that until you've

actually validated what it is that

they're experiencing okay before I wrap

up remember that there's no such thing

as a perfect parent and that every

parent has moments where they get

frustrated and you're going to respond

inappropriately or in a way that's going

to be invalidating to your kid and

that's fine the important thing is to

catch it as much as you can to repair

the relationship if you suspect that

you've done something wrong and of

course all of this is just good modeling

so teaching your kid you know that

nobody's perfect that we all make

mistakes and that we can unintentionally

hurt the people that we care about in

addition if you struggle with empathy

empathizing or regulating your own

emotions just make sure that you don't

beat up on yourself recognize that

there's probably good reason for you to

have some difficulty here although you

know once you become aware of it it is

now your responsibility to do something

about it

so your kids don't have to struggle with

similar kinds of issues okay if you've

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