Developing Emotional Regulation

Our Early Learning Centre (ELC) and Junior School parents recently had the opportunity to hear Ms Julie Liptak present on the ‘Zones of Regulation’ and emotional regulation for our children. Zones of Regulation explicitly teach children about the range of emotions, how to self-regulate them, the impact of their behaviour on others, and how to manage difficult situations through life.

As parents, we want for our children to be able to identify their emotions across the day, have the vocabulary to explain these feelings and the skills to help themselves feel better. The key strategy to learn this is by understanding emotional regulation, which is the monitoring, evaluating and modifying of emotions. Self-regulation is important so we have the ability to manage our behaviours when facing big and uncomfortable feelings. We can self-regulate using sensory and cognitive strategies, and by practising calming strategies.

Anecdotally, we are seeing children who struggle to sit for extended periods, have difficulties with muscle tone or poor core strength, want to work on their own agenda, and become oppositional when required to follow the group plan or rules. Evidence in recent research also suggests lower levels of social skills and empathy than in the past.

What we are seeing is more anxiety, time-poor parents, and children spending less face-to-face time with others. Screen use is increasing and having an impact on the development of social skills. Children are in more organised activities and spend less time in free play or imaginative play. Children have less opportunity to recognise and understand the facial and body cues of others.

What can parents do now to help?

  • Set time aside to talk with your children—have a family mealtime with all screens away.
  • Allow children to be bored and generate their own play and ideas—boredom leads to creativity.
  • Play games with your children, such as board games, creative games and charades (fast becoming a lost art).
  • Explicitly teach children about expected behaviours for different environments so they understand how to behave and act.
  • Teach and practise relaxation, mindfulness and calming techniques. Ask a qualified practitioner if you need some tips.

Haileybury Psychologists