12 Dec How can I help my child regulate their emotions when I’m not around?
This is probably ( read definitely) one of my favourite parenting questions to answer. Children cannot regulate their emotions. They do not have the capacity, brain development or life experience to be able to regulate what they feel and think. However, all is not lost. There’s plenty that parents can do to help their children. Begin by rephrasing what you’re querying. It’s not about children gaining skills to regulate their emotions; it’s about creating the inner foundations of a child’s mental health so that their emotions don’t overwhelm them completely when they are older.
Another popular question I get asked is, “at what age do children regulate their emotions?” Well, can you regulate your emotions? If so, can you do it all the time, a bit of the time, or does it depend on what’s going on? We’ve to lower the bar of expectation when it comes to children. Often we expect them to be able to have mental agility skills greater than us as adults. Like us, children are a work in progress when it comes to emotional regulation.
Parents often express, “I thought my child would be able to manage their emotions now they’re six/seven/eight/nine/10 etc.” This creates frustration in the relationship, which children feel and internalise as not being good enough. Yes, it can seem like groundhog day, and it’s exhausting, but we can never make children be anything they’re not.
Here are my tips for how to help support your child’s developing emotions:
Pay attention to them when they are upset
Build your repertoire of how you respond to them based on what they need from you. Empathy is your number one tool in showing that you see and understand that they are upset/overwhelmed/angry etc. You might talk with your child and use your tone of voice, facial expression or body language to show that you care.
Remove consequences for behaviour and, at times, remove the need for apologies
Apologies can often be deeply shaming for a behaviour that was really out of the control of the child. Be unwavering in your support of your child regardless of what they do. Children respond to the environment in which they are, so if they do or say something you don’t agree with, look at what their stressor is and help them with it.
Be self aware and lead by example
Most important is to understand how you regulate your emotions because your children will be learning these soft skills from you.
If anything in this blog resonates with you and you’d like support to create change, you’re welcome to book a free call with Bethan here to explore your support options. Make sure you download your free 5 Steps to Calmer Parenting and if you’re looking for immediate parenting support, you can start your free 7 day trial in the Calm Parenting Club, my online parenting community which wraps supports around parents and their families needs.