Emotional regulation refers to an individual’s ability to recognise, process and act upon the emotions that they feel within different situations. Our capability to complete this process reflects the development of a variety of different skills.
Emotional regulation is important as it impacts not only our confidence and sense of self but also our ability to interact, develop and maintain relationships with others. As a whole this includes how we talk, listen and act towards others when we are presented with some form of physical, mental or emotional stimulus.
Early childhood is when people begin to create and develop their social and emotional skills. This involves the process of recognising, expressing, understanding and managing emotions. For many children, their language, thinking and planning skills are still minimal and they may therefore require the assistance of an adult. Adults are important resources for children because they have the skills to help recognise, organise and regulate the emotions that a child can experience whilst developing a sense of trust and support.
For many children, emotions can quite often be intense, overwhelming and have a rapid onset. Due to their limited experiences, children may need a parent or carer to step in and assist. It is important to note than when an adult comes to the assistance of a child the main focus is not to diminish or undervalue the
feelings but to:
1. Help the child recognise what they are feeling (e.g. upset or sad)
2. Process why it is that the child is feeling that way (e.g. their friend did not play with them at lunch time)
3. Create ways to effectively express feelings in a constructive manner (e.g. Discuss with the child that sometimes friends do not have to play together and reassure them that this is normal. Brainstorm ideas about what to do if they do not want to play together again.)
Parents/carers can assist their children in a variety of ways that include physical contact (i.e. hugs, holding hands, and high-fives), verbal reassurance (i.e. positive words, singing, speaking in a calm tone) and comforting body language (i.e. being on the same level, smiling, reassuring nods). These strategies can allow the child to remain calm and work through the step-by- step emotional process in a positive and constructive way. It is also important to note that all children are different so it is important to take the time to see what is most effective for your child.