Dysregulated Behavior in Kids: The Guide to Supporting Self Regulation

As parents and caregivers, we understand the importance of nurturing our children's emotional well-being. However, some children and teens struggle with dysregulated behavior and emotional regulation, leading to strong emotional reactions to small levels of distress leading to disruptive behavior at school and home.

Dysregulation can manifest in many ways, such as temper tantrums, aggression, impulsivity, and anxiety, making it challenging for parents and caregivers to manage. 

Children who struggle with emotional regulation may have difficulty paying attention in class, following instructions, and maintaining positive relationships with peers. They may also experience academic difficulties, leading to lower grades and decreased self-esteem.

Supporting self regulation in children is crucial for their well-being and success. Parents and caregivers play a critical role in helping children develop emotional regulation skills, which can positively impact their behavior, academic outcomes, and social relationships. 

Teaching children self-regulation skills can help them manage their emotions and behavior more effectively, leading to improved mental health outcomes and better academic performance.

Chapter 1

What is Self Regulation in Children?

Self-regulation refers to the ability to control one's emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in response to internal and external stimuli in one's environment. It involves managing out of control emotions and impulses, delaying gratification, and adapting to changing situations. That means getting uncomfortable sometimes and creating a window of tolerance and that is exactly what Marina learned to do.

Children and adults need healthy self-regulation skills. Otherwise, we would be in a constant state of activation. Self-regulation skills are essential for children's success in every area of their life including academics, social interactions, and lifelong emotional well-bein

An icon depicting the letter i in purple and white.

At school, dysregulated children may struggle to pay attention in class and complete academic tasks. They may experience difficulty following instructions, staying organized, and maintaining positive relationships with peers. These academic and social difficulties can lead to decreased motivation, lower academic achievement, and lower self-esteem.

At home, dysregulated children may have difficulty following routines and rules, leading to conflict and tension between family members. Parents and caregivers may feel overwhelmed, frustrated, and unsure of how to manage their child's behavior when they lose emotional control, as well as perplexed as to why it is even happening.  These children may struggle to communicate their feelings effectively, leading to misunderstandings and further dysregulation. 

As dysregulated as some children can get, calming the dysregulated brain and teaching coping and calm brain strategies will change behavior when they are losing control of emotions with consistent effort. So many children and teens like Martina can turn around their behavior when parents get the right tools in their hands. 

Chapter 2

What is Behavioral Dysregulation in Children?

Dysregulated children may exhibit a range of dysregulated behaviors that can make their life very stressful for the child and their family. Their constant emotional dysregulation or reactivity to just about anything and everything puts parents on edge and strains relationships. When you can't regulate emotions, conflict is typical. 

Their lack of self-soothing and calming down when upset is hard on the child and parent.  For Martina and her parents, that was the hardest part of her reactivity, how much it affected their relationship. 

Symptoms of Dysregulation: 

 
  • Frequent mood swings or intense emotional outbursts or reactions to minor events
  • Emotionally volatile or has emotional outbursts
  • Poor emotional control 
  • Difficulty managing anger and frustration, leading to verbal or physical outbursts
  • Poor impulse control, leading to impulsive and reckless behaviors
  • Difficulty with transitions and changes in routine, leading to resistance or oppositional behavior
  • Difficulty with self-regulation, such as calming down or self-soothing when upset
  • Difficulty paying attention and staying focused, leading to academic difficulties and poor performance
  • Difficulty with social skills, such as making and maintaining friendships
  • Always saying, “No” before saying “yes” to something
  • Non-compliant behaviors
  • Poor sleep habits or disrupted sleep patterns
  • Sensory processing issues or sensory reactivity 
  • Cognitive dysregulation, poor mental control and problems with attention
  • Physical symptoms such as stomachaches, headaches, or muscle tension in response to stress.

Chapter 3

Signs of Dysregulated Kids: Emotional Dysregulation Symptoms 

A person who cannot control their emotions exhibits signs of behavioral and brain dysregulation. This occurs when brain waves become over or under stimulated, which can occur for a variety of reasons, but with emotionally dysregulated children and teens, this occurs because of poor emotional regulation. 

When the brain becomes dysregulated, especially in the emotional centers of the brain, then it becomes hard for a child or teen to process emotionally coded information. What causes emotional dysregulation may be perplexing to parents but a stress activated nervous system is often the source. 

When a child is emotionally disregulated, a child's or teen's are emotions out of control or they are emotionally unregulated. When a child is feeling dysregulated, they feel out of control, shameful and unable to put the brakes on. 

If a child is unable to regulate emotions, we need to put our detective hat on and look for root causes. 

Emotional Dysregulation Causes that Lead to Dysregulated Behavior 

The brain is responsible for processing and regulating emotions, and when this system is disrupted, emotional dysregulation can occur. Dysregulated children may have difficulty with emotional self-regulation, leading to difficulties in attention, behavior, and social interactions. 

While there is no emotional regulation disorder, emotional regulation impairment or loss of emotional control is common in many clinical issues, especially with neurodivergent conditions.

147 therapist endorsed self-regulation strategies for children a practical guide for parents

Download: 147 Therapist-Endorsed Self-Regulation Strategies for Children

➡️ Is your child overly sensitivie or reactive?
➡️ Is your child inflexible?
➡️Do they cry over seemingly nothing?

Tired of walking on eggshells around your child's mood, behavior and emotions? It's time you take back control! Stop the cycle of dysregulation and achieve calm with these proven self-regulation strategies.

Chapter 4

The Brain and Emotional Dysregulation Brain and Emotional Dysregulation

Emotional regulation is a complex process that involves various regions of the brain, including the prefrontal cortex, amygdala, and hippocampus. 

The limbic system is responsible for interpreting emotional information and it includes the amygdala and hippocampus. The amygdala is responsible for processing emotions, including fear, anger, and pleasure. The hippocampus plays a role in memory and emotional regulation. These regions interpret potential “threats” but in a dysregulated, overactive brain, it misinterprets everything as a threat. 

Dysregulation can occur when the prefrontal cortex is not adequately regulating the amygdala's emotional responses. The braking system of the brain, the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for executive function, such as planning and decision-making, struggles to do its job. When this happens, emotional responses can become exaggerated, leading to emotional dysregulation and one to react emotionally. 

Signs of a dysregulated nervous system include agitation, sleep problems, gastro-intestinal distress. Learning how to how to control emotions and gaining emotional regulation skills help to calm an activated nervous system. 

The first step of our BrainBehaviorReset™ Program is a QEEG Brain Map and there is a clear pattern of brain dysregulation that emerges with reactive kids that reflects difficulties in these areas. The Brain Map is an important diagnostic tool that helps us understand what clinical issues are affecting a child’s capacity to respond. Even though dysregulated kids get diagnoses such as Oppositional Defiant Disorder because they are so resistant to everything, there is much we can do to calm a dysregulated brain including neurofeedback, PEMF, and magnesium.

Chapter 5

Why are Some Kids so Over-Reactive?

Children can uncontrollable emotion and be overly emotional for various reasons, including behavioral modeling at home, genetic predisposition, trauma, or environmental factors. 

Children who experience trauma or adverse childhood experiences may have difficulty with emotional regulation and display uncontrolled emotions leading to dysregulation. Trauma emotional dysregulation is often related to trauma stored within the nervous system. Trauma and emotional dysregulation is well documented in the literature and needs to be discussed more as we expand our understanding of trauma.   

Environmental factors, such as stress or lack of sleep, can also contribute to dysregulation. So what does emotional dysregulation look like? It is more than just trouble controlling emotions and it is an inability to control emotions and further an inability to regulate emotions due to an over activated limbic system. 

Here are signs that your nervous system is dysregulated:

Internalizing and Externalizing Behaviors  

Type of Dysregulated BehaviorDefinitionExamples
InternalizingDysregulated behaviors that are directed inward, often manifesting as emotional or psychological distress.Anxiety, depression, withdrawal, perfectionism, rumination, social anxiety, selective mutism, self-harm, suicidal ideation
ExternalizingDysregulated behaviors that are directed outward, often manifesting as behavioral or social difficulties.Aggression, impulsivity, oppositional behavior, hyperactivity, temper tantrums, verbal or physical outbursts, property destruction, stealing, lying, substance abuse

 

Chapter 6

Is Emotional Dysregulation Normal?

Kid tantrums

Emotional dysregulation is a common and perfectly normal experience, particularly for children who are still developing their self-regulation skills. Tantrums and big reactions every once in a while is something every child experiences. 

However, persistent dysregulation can be a sign of a clinical problem that is impacting a child's development and well-being. Children who experience chronic dysregulation may struggle with social interactions, academic performance, and communication skills. 

There are different types of emotions that we all need and even anger can be a healthy emotion when it is something brief and an appropriate response to a situation. 

No child wants to be angry and upset and boy do they feel awful afterwards. Martina was so ashamed of her years of emotional upset, that we had to spend more time doing cognitive-behavioral therapy addressing that shame. Then we went on to calm her brain with neurofeedback.  The benefit of neurofeedback is that it regulates the brain safely and naturally. For Martina, that paved the way for cognitive-behavioral work that taught her ways in controlling emotions that changed her and her family's lives. 

Chapter 7

Brain and Behavioral Dysregulation Triggers


So 
what triggers emotional dysregulation? Certain triggers can lead to brain and behavioral dysregulation in children, including stress, fatigue, hunger, and overstimulation. Children may also struggle with dysregulation when faced with novel or overwhelming situations. Understanding a child's triggers can help parents and caregivers provide support and prevent dysregulation from occurring. 

It's important to note that what causes dysregulation  triggers for dysregulated behavior can be complex and multifaceted, and may require a holistic  and individualized approach to support self-regulation and well-being.

Encourage children to recognize their triggers and use strategies proactively, before they become overwhelmed or dysregulated. Reinforcing positive behavior and practicing strategies consistently can also support the development of self-regulation skills over time. 

Even when you have clinical disorders such as anxiety, ADHD or autism, the neurodivergent brain can learn when their nervous system is regulated and there is a high level or reinforcement.

If dysregulated behavior persists or becomes severe, seeking professional support is always a good idea. 

Chapter 8

How Does Emotional Self Regulation in Children Develop?

As children grow and develop, their emotional regulation skills begin to mature and become more refined. In the early years, infants and toddlers rely on their caregivers to help them regulate their emotions. This is because their brains and nervous systems are not yet fully developed. They have not yet developed the cognitive and emotional tools necessary to manage their own emotions.

As children enter the preschool years, they begin to develop some basic emotional regulation skills. They may start to use language to express their emotions and may engage in simple self-soothing behaviors like sucking their thumb or holding a favorite toy. They may also start to learn basic problem-solving skills, like how to ask for help when they need it. 

A typical uncontrolled emotional outburst is called a tantrum and most kids go through them. It is normal for a young child to can't control emotions or show difficulty regulating emotions at first but over time most will learn to emotionally regulate with practice.  

As children move into the school-age years, their emotional regulation skills become more complex. When developing typically, they start to use more sophisticated problem-solving strategies to manage their emotions, such as taking a break or engaging in physical activity to help calm down. 

When they have good modeling at home and school, they start to develop a better understanding of their own emotions and the emotions of others, which is reflected in good communication and social skills.

Throughout adolescence, emotional regulation skills continue to develop and mature. Adolescents may begin to rely more on cognitive strategies, such as cognitive reappraisal or positive self-talk, to manage their emotions. For teens that really develop strong emotional intelligence, they may also develop a greater sense of self-awareness and a better understanding of their own emotional triggers, which can help them anticipate and manage their emotions more effectively.

It's important to note that emotional regulation skills continue to develop into early adulthood, with the prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain responsible for executive functioning and emotional control) continuing to develop well into the mid-20s. Those with emotional regulation issues have poor impulse control and typically poor executive functioning. 

This means that young adults may still be developing and refining their emotional regulation skills, which highlights the importance of ongoing support and education around emotional regulation throughout childhood and adolescence.

Chapter 9

What Does the Research Say About Self-Regulation and Mental Health?


Research has shown that 
self-regulation skills are crucial for mental health and well-being. Children who have developed self-regulation skills have better outcomes in academic achievement, social interactions, and mental health. 

Journal of Child Psychology
A study published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry found that self-regulation skills in early childhood were a significant predictor of mental health outcomes in adolescence and adulthood (Blair & Raver, 2015). 

Another study published in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology found that self-regulation skills in early childhood predicted better social and academic outcomes in middle childhood (Morgan et al., 2016).

Research has also shown that dysregulation is associated with various mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression, and behavioral disorders. A study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry found that dysregulated preschool children were at a higher risk for developing behavioral and emotional disorders (Lavigne et al., 2015). 

Another study published in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology found that dysregulated children were more likely to experience anxiety and depression symptoms (Wagner et al., 2016).

Dysregulated Behaviors and their Potential Impact on Academic, Social and Emotional Functioning

Dysregulated Behaviors and their Potential Impact on Academic, Social and Emotional Functioning

Chapter 10

Foundational Skills for Emotional and Behavioral Self-Regulation

Some children are born with a high emotional IQ but most learn the skills over time. When a child has clinical issues such as ADHD, anxiety, autism, learning disability or another issue that impacts brain regulation, then learning simply isn’t as easy. 

When one cannot regulate emotions, they have difficulty controlling emotions and have chronic dysregulation behavioral issues. Those deregulated emotions can show up as overly irritated or angry responses, shut down behaviors, tearfulness, and just “big emotions.” 

The first step in treating emotional dysregulation is flipping that internal script that children and teens say to themselves, “I cannot control my emotions” to I can control my reaction to uncomfortable sensations, thoughts and feelings. 

Children who struggle with emotional and behavioral dysregulation need extra and explicit reinforcement in developing foundational skills that can help them regulate their emotions and behaviors effectively. 

Slow Down and Create Space

One of the most important foundational skills for emotional and behavioral self-regulation is the ability to slow down and be mindful. This skill involves taking a moment to pause and reflect before reacting to a situation. By creating space, children can gain a clearer perspective on the situation and make more appropriate responses.

Connect to the Body

Children who struggle with emotional and behavioral dysregulation may benefit from techniques that help them connect with their bodies, such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or yoga. These techniques can help children become more aware of their bodily sensations, so they can learn to understand the range of emotions they are experiencing.

Learn How to Tolerate Uncomfortable Sensations

Another foundational skill for emotional and behavioral self-regulation is the ability to tolerate uncomfortable sensations. By doing this, one can find healthy coping mechanisms to manage difficult emotions and experiences. 

Label Emotions

Children who are able to identify and label their emotions accurately are better equipped to regulate their emotions effectively. Labeling emotions can help children understand what they are feeling and why, which can aid in emotional regulation.

Be Kind to Your Mind

This skill involves adopting a growth mindset and embracing mistakes as opportunities to learn and grow. By being kind to themselves, children can develop a more positive relationship with their thoughts and emotions, which can aid in emotional regulation.

Use Positive Language

Children who use positive self-talk are better equipped to regulate their emotions effectively. Using positive language can help children reframe negative thoughts and emotions in a more positive light, which aids in emotional regulation and handling upset and frustration. 

Chapter 11

How Can I Teach My Child Self-Regulation Skills?

How Can I Teach My Child Self-Regulation Skills

Teaching self-regulation skills to children can help them develop emotional regulation and better mental health outcomes. Here are some tips for teaching self-regulation behavioral skills to children:

  1. Model self-regulation: Children learn by example, so it's essential to model self-regulation skills. Practice calming techniques, such as deep breathing, mindfulness, and positive self-talk.

     

  2. Provide a safe and predictable environment: A predictable environment can help children feel secure and less anxious. Stick to routines, provide clear expectations, and offer a calm and safe environment.

     

  3. Encourage problem-solving: Encourage children to problem-solve and come up with solutions to challenging situations. This can help them feel more in control and less overwhelmed.

     

  4. Offer choices: Offer children choices to help them feel more in control of their environment. This can also help them develop decision-making skills.

     

  5. Practice patience: Learning self-regulation skills takes time and patience. Be patient with your child and offer support and guidance.

Chapter 12

Parent Strategies for Emotional Dysregulation

By understanding why emotional dysregulation occurs and implementing effective coping mechanisms, parents can help their children develop healthy emotional regulation skills for a lifetime. Understanding their emotional condition and emotional deficit is important to getting the right treatment.  

  1. Understand why your kid is behaving that way.
  2. Monitor your child's overall health.
  3. Learn how to manage behaviors.
  4. Reinforce positive behaviors.
  5. Manage your child's stress.
  6. Support your child during meltdowns.
  7. Don't feed into the irritation and anger. 
  8. Provide social support.
  9. Communicate positively.
  10. Empower them.
  11. Set limits.
  12. Use cognitive reappraisal strategy.

To learn more about parent strategies to support your child’s emotional regulation, read my blog, “How to Deal With Emotional Dysregulation.”

147 therapist endorsed self-regulation strategies for children a practical guide for parents

Download: 147 Therapist-Endorsed Self-Regulation Strategies for Children

➡️ Is your child overly sensitivie or reactive?
➡️ Is your child inflexible?
➡️Do they cry over seemingly nothing?

Tired of walking on eggshells around your child's mood, behavior and emotions? It's time you take back control! Stop the cycle of dysregulation and achieve calm with these proven self-regulation strategies.

Chapter 13

What are Self-Regulation Strategies for Children?

What are Self-Regulation Strategies for Children

There are many self-regulation strategies that children can use to help manage their emotions and behaviors. Here are some self-regulation strategies for children:

Deep breathing

Deep breathing can help children calm down and manage their emotions. Encourage your child to take deep breaths in through their nose and out through their mouth.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness can help children focus on the present moment and reduce anxiety. Encourage your child to practice mindfulness exercises, such as focusing on their breath or using their senses to observe their environment.

Positive Self-Talk 

Encourage your child to use positive self-talk to help manage their emotions. Teach them to say positive things to themselves, such as “I can do this” or “I am strong.”

Sensory activities

Sensory activities can help children regulate their emotions and reduce anxiety. Offer your child sensory activities, such as playing with playdough or squeezing a stress ball.

Exercise

Exercise can help children release pent-up frustrations, improve executive functioning and manage their emotions. Encourage your child to engage in physical activity, such as playing outside or taking a dance class.

Chapter 14

EmotionsHow to Help a Child Calm Down?

Helping a child calm down can be challenging, but there are many strategies that parents and caregivers can use to help. Here are some tips for helping a child calm down:

  • It's essential to remain calm when a child is upset. This can help the child feel more secure and less overwhelmed.
  • Offer comfort to the child, such as a hug or a soothing voice. This can help the child feel supported and safe.
  • Encourage the child to take deep breaths in through their nose and out through their mouth. This can help them regulate their emotions and calm down.
  • Provide a safe and quiet space for the child to calm down. This can be a designated calm-down space, such as a cozy corner or a beanbag chair.
  • Sensory activities, such as playing with playdough or squeezing a stress ball, can help children calm down and manage their emotions.

Chapter 15

Co-Regulation: Sharing Your Calm

Co-regulation refers to the process of regulating emotions together with another person. Co-regulation is an essential part of developing self-regulation skills and can be particularly helpful for dysregulated children. Parents and caregivers can co-regulate with children by sharing their calm and helping children regulate their emotions.

Here are some tips for co-regulating with children:

  • It's essential to remain calm when co-regulating with children, so you can be an A-game parent in dealing with your dysregulated child.
  • Offer comfort to the child, such as a hug or a soothing voice when there is emotional lability.
  • Model self-regulation skills to help the child learn self-regulation.
  • Practice calming techniques, such as deep breathing and positive self-talk.
  • Use calm spaces together in your home or neighborhood.

Chapter 16

Mindfulness and Self-Regulation

Mindfulness is a technique that involves focusing on the present moment without judgment. Mindfulness can help children develop self-regulation skills and manage their emotions, as learning how to manage your emotions will help them in the immediate and the future. 

It can also improve attention, focus and executive functioning, leading to better academic outcomes.

Here are some tips for practicing mindfulness with children:

Tips for practicing mindfulness with children


Practice mindfulness exercises

Practice mindfulness exercises with your child, such as focusing on their breath or using their senses to observe their environment.

Offer Guided Meditations

Offer guided meditations to help your child practice mindfulness. There are many mindfulness apps and resources available for children.

Use Mindfulness in Everyday Activities

Encourage your child to practice mindfulness in everyday activities, such as eating or brushing their teeth. Teach them to focus on the present moment and avoid distractions.

Chapter 17

Self-Regulation Examples 

 

So what does emotional dysregulation mean? Signs of dysregulation in children, teens and adults can show up at any point in life. Most of the time, children who display exaggerated emotions in reaction to situational stressors and these dysregulated behaviors pass. 

 

When there is severe emotional dysregulation, show signs of dysregulation where they are struggling emotionally much of the time. There is a lack of emotional control in response to a real or perceived stressor. Not being able to control emotions leads to an activated, overly reactive nervous system. Examples of emotional dysregulation include flashes or anger or irritation with simple requests. These neurodivergent symptoms are common with ODD, ADHD, OCD, ASD, RSD and PDA

 

How to regulate your emotions means learning how to manage emotions. So sometimes, one has to learn how to control emotions for someone or something. That isn't easy for kids or adults. Managing intense feelings when you are lacking emotional regulation feels impossible until you learn how to deal with emotions, sensations and thoughts. 

 

It isn't about how to suppress emotions but rather how to stop being so emotional in your reactions to everyday stressors. Gaining in my control, out of control sensations is part of gaining skills to deal with extreme emotions when you are emotionally frustrated. 

 

Emotional regulation refers to being able to react to a stressor and recover. Many kids and teens feel like, “I can't regulate my emotions” because they don't know how to react. In order to know how to fix emotional dysregulation, knowing what regulated behaviors are is the first step. 

 

Here are some self-regulation examples to help you see the power every parent has in helping their dysregulated child calm their brain so they can learn how to control my emotions:

Guide to supporting brain regulation in dysregulated children through positive self talk.
Guide, Brain Regulation
A guidebook providing strategies for supporting brain regulation in children, particularly those with dysregulated behavior.
A brain training device for dysregulated kids.

Taking deep breaths: Encourage your child to take deep breaths in through their nose and out through their mouth to calm down and regulate their emotions.

Using positive self-talk: Teach your child to use positive self-talk to manage their emotions. Encourage them to say positive things to themselves, such as “I can do this” or “I am strong.”

Engaging in physical activity: Encourage your child to engage in physical activity to release pent-up energy and manage their emotions.

Do brain training: Using tools such as CALM PEMF™ that send healthy frequencies to the body that support cellular function and communication, as well as bring the ANS into a calm parasympathetic state, can be an easy and effective way to calm the brain. 

These emotional regulation techniques can help prevent emotional volatility, emotionally reactive behaviors, and emotional meltdowns. When kids are have less emotional reactive behaviors, they can gain the skills and self confidence to tackle affect dysregulation and gain emotion control. 

Chapter 18

Social Skills and Emotional Regulation

Treatment for emotional dysregulation often involves teaching social skills to children is essential for their social and emotional development. Just because a child likes other kids, doesn't mean they have good social skills. Social skills refer to the ability to communicate, interact, and build relationships with others. 

In particular, it involves the back and forth interactions that form reciprocal communication. Many children who lack social skills that drive emotional upset may lack true reciprocal communication skills.

Developing social skills can also help children develop emotional regulation and is how to fix dysregulation for some kids who lack skills, as well improve metacognitive skills and better mental health outcomes. Research has shown that social competence is related to self-regulation, and social skills interventions can improve self-regulation and emotional control (Zhou et al., 2012). Emotional dysregulation signs in the social area also include social avoidance. 

We are social beings and we need to connect with others and good social skills is the path to that. So many children I work with struggle because their lack of good emotional regulation turns other children off.  Supporting emotional and social functioning is multifaceted for sure. 

Here are some ways that social skills can impact emotional regulation:

A purple circle promoting social support for dysregulated kids.
A guide on supporting brain regulation in dysregulated children, represented by a purple circle showcasing the term "social cues".
A purple circle promoting conflict resolution.

Social Support

Having social support can help children regulate their emotions and cope with stress. Children who have strong social connections are more likely to have better emotional regulation and mental health outcomes.

Social Cues

Social cues, such as facial expressions and body language, can impact emotional regulation. Children who have good social skills are better able to interpret social cues and regulate their emotions accordingly.

Conflict Resolution

Conflict resolution skills can help children manage their emotions during conflict and prevent dysregulation. Teaching these skills can help them develop emotional regulation and social competence.

Here are some tips for teaching social skills to children:

  • Role-playing can help children practice social skills and develop emotional regulation. Encourage children to act out social scenarios and practice conflict resolution skills.
  • Positive reinforcement can encourage children to use social skills and develop emotional regulation. Praise children for using social skills and managing their emotions effectively.
  • Social skills interventions can improve social competence and emotional regulation in children. These interventions can involve group therapy, peer support, and individual counseling.

Chapter 19

Self-Regulation and ADHD

Children with ADHD may struggle with self-regulation due to difficulties with attention and executive function. Behavioral disinhibition is the foundation of all learning, so if a child can’t put the brakes on, developing healthy self-regulation skills is nearly impossible.  

Self-Regulation and ADHD

Many children with ADHD (about 70%) also have rejection sensitive dysphoria, which means they have big emotional reactions to real or perceived criticism or rejection. So, emotional reactivity is par for the course for many children with ADHD and their families. 

The frontal lobes control attention and executive functioning  and they factor into how a child is able to modulate the information they are receiving.  With such poor self regulatory control, it can be hard for a child with ADHD to develop these skills but certainly not impossible.  

ADHD and emotional dysregulation may go hand and hand but skills can be taught. Teaching self-regulation skills can be particularly beneficial for children with ADHD and with concerted and consistent effort, they can learn these skills. Strategies such as mindfulness, deep breathing, and positive self-talk can help children with ADHD manage their emotions and improve attention and focus. Adding in brain training such as neurofeedback for ADHD can make all the difference in a child’s and family’s life.

Chapter 20

Sensory Processing and Emotional Regulation

Children with sensory processing issues may have difficulty regulating their emotions and behaviors. Sensory processing refers to the brain's ability to process sensory information from the environment.  Behavior dysregulation can lead to body dysregulation where kids can be reactive to sensory information. 

A sensory diet can be elan incredibly helpful emotional dysregulation therapy. Sensory activities, such as playing with playdough or using a weighted blanket, can help children with sensory processing issues regulate their emotions and behavior.

Anxiety and emotional dysregulation is also common with children with sensory processing disorder. Anticipatory anxiety about sensory discomfort causes one to avoid tasks or activities. 

Chapter 21

Executive Functioning and Emotional Control

So, what's emotional dysregulation and its connection to executive functioning? Executive function is closely related to self-regulation, as it involves inhibiting impulses and managing emotions.  Executive functioning refers to the brain's ability to plan, organize, and complete tasks. 

The ability to put the brakes on the most foundational EF skill needed for self-regulation. 

Children with executive function difficulties may have difficulty regulating their emotions and behaviors. Children with issues such as ADHD, dyslexia, autism and NVLD typically have EF challenges.  

I recall a boy named Paul with NVLD that would become so dysregulated every time his dad asked him to do anything outside. It became a battle of wills between the two with dad getting angry at Paul. “Couldn’t do basic outdoor tasks such as watering the plants”. 

His lack of executive functioning was a big part of it because he just didn’t know what dad wanted for this task he didn’t like on top of it. Eventually, with some executive functioning coaching, Paul was able to gain the right skills to complete dad’s chore list. 

Teaching executive function skills, such as problem-solving and decision-making, can help children develop emotional control and self-regulation skills and should be a priority.executive function skills

Chapter 22

Emotional Regulation and Anxiety


Anxiety can impact a child's ability to regulate their emotions, leading to emotional regulation problems. Anxious kids feel things strongly and they are often uncomfortable as a result, which makes them easily unravel. 

Children with anxiety may display emotionally dysregulated symptoms or have difficulty managing their emotions in response to triggers, leading to behavioral issues and social challenges. Identifying and learning strategies to tolerate uncomfortable sensations, calm the brain and gain coping skills is key.

Teaching anxiety management strategies, such as mindfulness and positive self-talk, can help children with anxiety regulate their emotions and improve their well-being.

Chapter 23

Exercises to Calm the Brain

So how do you heal a dysregulated nervous systemYou have to calm the brain first. When you struggle with affect-dysregulation or even have an affect regulation disorder, you just aren't regulated enough to learn or use coping skills. 

There are many exercises that children can use to calm their brains and regulate their emotions. Here are some exercises to calm the brain:

  • Encourage your child to take deep breaths in through their nose and out through their mouth to calm down and regulate their emotions.
  • Guide your child through a visualization exercise, such as imagining a peaceful place or visualizing a calm and soothing color.
  • Guide your child through a progressive muscle relaxation exercise, where they tense and relax different muscle groups.
  • Offer your child sensory activities, such as playing with playdough or using a weighted blanket, to help them regulate their emotions.

Types of Self-Regulation Strategies

Emotional regulation starts with healthy brain regulation, so supporting brain regulation in children is crucial for their well-being and success. 

Dysregulation can impact a child's development and mental health, leading to behavioral issues, academic difficulties, and social challenges. Teaching self-regulation skills to children can help them develop emotional regulation and better mental health outcomes. 

Co-regulation can help dysregulated children regulate their emotions and develop self-regulation skills. 

Chapter 24

Therapies For Emotional Regulation

 

Knowing how to help emotional dsyregulation in children and teens is multi-faceted. Children need the skills to how to not be emotionally reactive and how to regulate emotions when triggered. They need to understand, “Why an I not control my emotions” and “Why do I have emotional outbursts” and what to do about it. 

 

How to deal with emotional dysregulation can be an emotional struggle for the child and parent. Emotional regulation therapy can help a child gain skills to manage dysregulated emotions and parents the tools to support dysregulation symptoms. 

 

Fortunately, there are several therapies that can help with calming the brain and emotional regulation. Learning how to stop reacting emotionally is key for healthy stress management. These skills are also key to preventing them becoming dysregulated adults and a variety of dysregulation disorder in adults, including anxiety, OCD and mood dysregulation in adults. 

There is no “best medication for emotional dysregulation” because emotion regulation therapy focuses on gaining skills.

These natural therapies can help children and teens be regulated enough to learn new ways of coping with their emotions and improve their overall well-being. 

Neurofeedback

Neurofeedback is a type of therapy that involves using an electroencephalogram (EEG) to monitor brain waves. The goal of this therapy is to teach individuals how to regulate their own brainwaves, which is designed to regulate the brain. Neurofeedback can be particularly effective for individuals who struggle with anxiety, depression, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) because it is safe and natural to calm the brain. 

PEMF

PEMF, or Pulsed Electromagnetic Field therapy, is a non-invasive therapy that uses electromagnetic fields to stimulate the body's natural healing processes. PEMF has been used with individuals who struggle with anxiety, depression, and sleep disorders. PEMF therapy has been shown to improve mood, reduce stress, and improve overall well-being.

Magnesium

Magnesium is an essential mineral that plays a crucial role in many bodily functions that impact mental health. Many people are deficient in magnesium, which can lead to symptoms such as anxiety, depression, and insomnia. The research is clear that taking magnesium supplements or increasing magnesium-rich foods in your diet can help improve emotional regulation.

Play Therapy

Play therapy is a type of therapy that is particularly effective for children who struggle with emotional dysregulation. Play therapy involves using toys and games to help children express their emotions and learn new ways of coping with them by role playing. Play therapy is designed to help those that have difficulty expressing their emotions in words.