You had a long day at work, and now you’re stuck in traffic on the way home. It’s the middle of summer so it’s almost unbearably hot outside, and your air conditioning is broken. On top of all that, you didn’t have time for lunch, so you’re starving. You can feel the frustration building inside you, but you don’t break down. Instead, you take a few deep breaths and remind yourself this will be over soon.
That process of calming yourself down – which most of us do regularly without thinking about it – is called self-regulation. When we self-regulate, we avoid having emotional outbursts in response to stressful and aggravating situations, adapt to things not going the way we expect, and soothe ourselves when we’re upset, according to the Child Mind Institute article “How Can We Help Kids With Self-Regulation?”
This is an essential skill that children usually develop by the time they start school, which allows them to achieve their goals despite the unpredictable nature of both their own emotions and the world around them, the Child Mind Institute explains.
However, children with sensory processing issues, ADHD, anxiety, and other conditions can struggle with self-regulation. If you’re a parent concerned about how your child responds to and handles their emotions, here are some signs you should watch out for and some self-regulation techniques for children.
Signs of Self-Regulation Issues
For kids who are easily overwhelmed by sensory input or who have trouble with executive function, learning how to develop self-regulation can take some extra time and effort. If your child is past the toddler years and shows any of the following signs, they might need help handling their emotional responses, according to Allison Schmitt, an occupational therapy student on clinical at Little Steps, and the Understood.org article “Trouble With Self-Regulation: What You Need to Know.”
- Trouble following directions
- Not paying attention
- Frustrated meltdowns and tantrums
- Outbursts and inflexibility in situations where expectations change
Strategies to Help Kids Self-Regulate
Teaching self-regulation activities such as the following can help kids get a better handle on their emotions and learn to remain calm in aggravating situations, according to Allison.
1. Do some jumping jacks to blow off steam.
2. Do some wall or chair push-ups.
3. Go get a drink of water.
4. Take five slow, deep breaths.
5. Stomp your feet for a bit or march around.
6. Hold a yoga pose for a minute or so.
Pediatric occupational therapy can also help children improve their self-regulation skills, as well as address related conditions such as sensory processing disorders. If you’d like to learn more about how pediatric therapy can address self-regulation, contact us today by calling 847-707-6744 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.