Teaching Emotional Regulation to Young Children

Tips for Parents

July 8, 2024

As a experienced mental health clinician, I have worked with many children struggling with emotional regulation. Emotional regulation is the ability to manage and control our emotions in different situations. It is a critical skill that helps children cope with stress, build positive relationships, and succeed in school and life. However, emotional regulation is not an inherent skill, and young children need guidance and support to develop it fully.

Parents play a crucial role in teaching emotional regulation to their children. Here are some tips that can help you support your child’s emotional development:

1. Acknowledge and validate your child’s emotions: Children need to feel understood and accepted, even when they experience negative emotions. Instead of dismissing or ignoring your child’s feelings, try to acknowledge and validate them. For example, “I can see that you are feeling angry/frustrated/sad. It’s okay to feel that way. Let’s talk about what’s bothering you.”

2. Model healthy emotional regulation: Children learn by watching and imitating their parents. If you struggle with emotional regulation, your child may struggle too. Try to model healthy emotional regulation by using positive coping strategies, such as deep breathing, mindfulness, or physical exercise, when you are feeling stressed or upset.

3. Teach your child coping strategies: Help your child develop a toolkit of coping strategies that they can use when they feel overwhelmed or stressed. These strategies can include taking a break, talking to a trusted adult, drawing, listening to music, or engaging in a calming activity.

4. Practice problem-solving skills: Emotional regulation is not just about managing emotions, but also about solving problems. Help your child develop problem-solving skills by encouraging them to identify the problem, brainstorm solutions, and evaluate the outcomes.

5. Be consistent and patient: Learning emotional regulation takes time and practice. Be patient with your child and consistent in your approach. Celebrate small successes and encourage your child to keep trying, even when they face setbacks.

Teaching emotional regulation to young children is not an easy task, but it is a rewarding one. By helping your child develop this critical skill, you are setting them up for success in all areas of their life. Remember, as a parent, you are your child’s first and most important teacher. With love, patience, and support, you can help your child thrive emotionally and mentally.

About the Author

Magan MacDonald

Magan MacDonald

Magan is a registered social worker in Prince Edward Island (PEI), Canada. She has a very long list of degrees and credentials, from her beginnings at the University of Prince Edward Island completing Family Science and Education degrees, to Bachelor and Master of Social Work degrees.

While her qualifications and her experience in Canada’s urban and rural regions are second to none, it is her infectious smile that make people feel immediately comfortable in her therapy sessions, or as a participant in her professional training seminars. She is a natural teacher and life-long learner.

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