Calgary Child Psychologist and Emotion Regulation
Creative Sky Psychology and Emotion Regulation
What is meant by Emotion Regulation?
Emotion Regulation is a child’s ability to adjust or shift their emotions to match the demands of a situation. For some children this skill does not come easy. For children with additional body regulation or thought challenges, it can be increasingly difficult. For example a child with persistent thoughts of worry, will often experience difficulties with regulating their emotions. Likewise, a child with environmental sensitivities will also experience difficulties with emotion regulation as their ability to tolerate additional stress lowers. Children learn about emotions in different ways, however building emotion literacy is the first step. This is done by modelling emotion focused language. Once children are connected into their emotions and are excited to use the language, they learn unique ways to shift between regulation states. It is important they learn this when they are calm and engaged. If we try to teach the strategies when they are elevated or low in their regulation, they will not process the information and could even become defensive to it. An important aspect of Creative Sky Psychology is how the supporting adult approaches the therapeutic activities. As part of therapy, parents are welcome to be a part of the process, so the information is consistent across sessions and home. If your child is having a meltdown or is upset, hold off on the teachings and wait until the storm passes.
What is a Child's Window of Tolerance?
What is the window of tolerance? Simply put the window of tolerance it is a child’s ability to tolerate change and stress. The term refers to their ability to cope with environmental stimuli, emotional challenges, and thoughts of self and others. As a child’s system becomes taxed, their ability to cope vastly narrows. With a narrow ability to cope “the window of tolerance” for challenges becomes limited. This is often the case with a child who has a meltdown for “no reason”. With proper investigative work, we can almost always find a reason. I’ve worked with children who have begun to thrive once minor adaptations in their sensory environment are tweaked. At times the challenges are larger and take more time. This depends on the complexity of their challenges, level of insight, and level of adult support available. Change can take time! Creative Sky Psychology aims to expand the window of tolerance so children can build strength, resiliency, and reach their full potential.
Tip: When kids are upset you can build resiliency by modeling the behaviour you would like them to learn! Building resiliency takes pace when children are calm. When children are upset (adults too for that matter) the brain goes offline! Pre-teaching skills or ideas of what kids can do when they are upset can help them build a tool box that is unique to the child’s needs. Have patience. It takes time, but in the end your child will learn how to self-regulate their emotions when they become upset.
How to Manage Emotional Meltdowns?
Although frustrating for parents, meltdowns or tantrums are often a part of normal child development that occur in response to everyday frustrations. Meltdowns can also occur in response to sensory overload in the environment, or if children are feeling anxious, dysregulated, or even socially isolated. Meltdowns are often expressed as crying, screaming yelling, and can lead to hitting and kicking. It is important to look at the root cause of the meltdowns if they are ongoing. For example, tantrums and meltdowns can be reinforced if their child has found a way to gain something of personal value. Meltdowns may also be continuous if the sensory system cannot adapt to the environment. In this case your child may need some additional environmental supports. If your child is experiencing meltdowns that seem excessive in length or time it is important to find the underlying cause and a solution so they are able to learn and thrive!
Tips for Dealing with Tantrums
The most important factor in dealing with tantrums is understanding the underlying cause and being proactive in preventing them from occurring, or minimizing the time they occur for. In order to determine the underlying cause, take note of when the tantrums most frequently occur, and what happens before, during, and after the tantrum. Reactive strategies are vastly different than their proactive counterparts. When your child or teen is in the middle of a tantrum or meltdown it is important to validate their emotions, keep them safe, and use minimal language. Once they are in the “throws” of a tantrum, it is important to remember that their brains have gone offline. At this point, they cannot process any information, however if you can keep them emotionally safe in this experience, they will learn self-calming skills. Your child or teen will also learn that they can count on you as a “safe” person to get their emotional needs met.