How Do We Develop Emotion Regulation?Learning how to self-regulate is a skill that most of us learn in early childhood. Consider the toddler who has a major tantrum because he lacks the words to define why he feels uncomfortable. With emotion regulation, that toddler will grow up into a child or teen who has adapted to not only label those uncomfortable feelings, but can also control the impulses to act out and throw a tantrum. There are many reasons a child and teen may not develop healthy emotion regulation strategies, including trauma and neglect stemming as far back as infancy.
The Importance of Self-regulationIf we all react impulsively when we feel something unpleasant, things could take a turn for the chaotic rapidly. Self-regulation involves us simply taking a deliberate pause between that unpleasant feeling and the action we take in response to it. It offers us the time we need to think, plan, and wait. A lack of emotion regulation can lead to many troubles for children, teens, and adults. Think about the child who hits or throws things when he gets upset at school. He will not make many friends that way, and he may find himself in trouble. His problems are just going to worsen as he gets older and gets more aggressive and more reactive. As an adult, he may struggle to deal with frustration and stress. He may not know how to express himself in a healtily. The result could be angry outbursts, throwing things, punching the walls, anxiety, and other mental wellness issues. Those who have healthy self-regulation strategies are more likely to have stronger relationships with their family and friends. Which is something we’d all want for our teens.
Teaching Healthy Emotion Regulation Skills to TeensHow can you work with your teen to instill healthy self-regulation strategies? Before you can be move onto the healthy strategies, it’s a good idea to be aware of what unhealthy coping strategies might look like. Some of the unhealthy coping skills that are commonly seen include the following.
- Verbal or physical aggression
- Excessive use of social media and other online sources of entertainment, while ignoring responsibilities
- Use and abuse of alcohol and other substances
- Avoiding confrontation or challenging situations
- Going for a walk or hike
- Spending more time outdoors
- Having a chat with friends
- Getting plenty of rest at night
- Recognizing when you to take a break and actually taking the needed break
- Identifying negative thoughts that pop up prior to or after strong or unpleasant emotions
- Not neglecting physical health when illness occurs