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Self-Regulation and Emotional Intelligence: Essential Strategies for Developing Skills

A group of children developing self-regulation and emotional intelligence through yoga.
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Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge

From the moment children are born, self-regulation is an important skill. It allows children to self-soothe and calms the brain’s reactivity to everyday stressors. 

Self-regulation is your child's ability to control their thoughts, emotions, temperament, and actions. It also gives them the power to tackle any challenge that comes their way. Nurturing emotional regulation skills prepares younger children for a lifetime of mental well-being and success.

There are many simple ways to teach your child to self-regulate while identifying and expressing different emotions. But as parents, you should never forget that kids co-regulate with you. That said, you should always keep in mind the principles of co-regulation. Remember that your kids look up to you, so you must show that you can regulate your emotions well, handle stress, and make positive choices.

Self-Regulation Meaning

Self-regulation is the ability to control and manage one's thoughts, emotions, and behaviors to achieve desired outcomes. It acts as a shield to protect your child from the negative impacts of stress, anxiety, and overwhelming emotions. Additionally, it helps them maintain a sense of calm and find their inner zen, even when the world around them feels chaotic.

Let's say your child faces a challenging situation like a disagreement with a friend or an upcoming school test. With emotion regulation, they can act cool and collected. They can stay calm, make good decisions, and de-stress like a pro. 

Without it, you might be like Amanda who seemed to react to just about everything around her. She had intense emotions that affected every aspect of her life. 

Furthermore, emotional self-regulation supercharges their ability to focus and learn. It allows them to become laser-focused learners who quickly soak up knowledge and achieve their academic goals. Self-regulation gives them the mental boost that takes them to the next level.

Also, self-regulation makes your child a social butterfly who effortlessly navigates social interactions, resolves conflict peacefully, and easily makes friends. Self-regulation becomes their secret weapon for effective social and emotional learning and building strong and meaningful relationships.

Note that social-emotional learning is more than just learning that all-essential social-emotional skill. It is also about understanding and handling emotions, building positive relationships, making good decisions, and doing well in any situation. It's like a toolkit that helps us with our feelings and interactions with others.

Signs of Self-Regulation and Emotional Intelligence Difficulties

Here are common signs indicating that a child has self-regulation challenges and a lag with emotional intelligence. Social-emotional skills are very important in the area of life. Many parents I work with prioritize grades over emotions but those with a high emotional IQ are the best leaders in life: and more importantly, they are happier too.

As every child is unique, their behaviors can vary. If you notice several of these challenges in your child, it may be a sign that they could benefit from extra support and guidance in developing their emotion regulation skills.

  • Emotional Outbursts – frequent tantrums, intense emotional reactions, and difficulty calming down

  • Impulsivity – acting on immediate urges without considering consequences, like interrupting conversations or grabbing things impulsively

  • Poor Focus and Attention – difficulty staying focused on tasks, paying attention, being easily distracted by external stimuli

  • Disorganization – struggles with keeping belongings and spaces organized, frequently misplacing items

  • Difficulty with Transitions – resistance or difficulty adjusting to changes in routine or shifting between activities

  • Impaired Social Skills – challenges in taking turns, sharing, and following social norms

  • Restlessness and hyperactivity – excessive movement, fidgeting, or inability to stay still for extended periods

  • Poor Time Management – difficulty managing time effectively and completing tasks within deadlines

  • Sensory Sensitivities – over- or under-reactivity to sensory stimuli, such as sounds, textures, or lights

  • Poor Impulse Control – acting on immediate desires without considering the impact on others or oneself

Common Mental Health Issues In Children That Can Affect Self-Regulation and Emotional Intelligence

We all know how vital emotion regulation for kids is. But sometimes, they face mental health issues that affect their self-regulating abilities. For example, mood disorders like anxiety and depression can make it tricky for them to regulate emotions and keep calm. 

ADHD is another common mental health issue our kids may encounter. This disorder can make it tough for them to control impulses, focus, and regulate their behavior. In the same way, they may face sensory processing issues where their brains struggle to process information from their senses. Sensory processing disorder symptoms can affect self-regulation as they struggle to adapt to stimuli. 

Self-regulation difficulties can also show during a meltdown in autism. Autistic meltdowns are intense reactions or responses displayed by kids on the spectrum when they become overwhelmed or overloaded by sensory, emotional, or environmental stimuli.

As mental health issues affect our children's overall health, they may experience frustration, low self-esteem, or even develop anxiety and depression. But the secret is early intervention and support. 

By seeking professional help, providing a nurturing and understanding environment, and showering kids with unconditional love, we can help them navigate these challenges and foster a strong foundation of mental well-being.

This topic reminds me of Alex, a strong-willed child full of energy and enthusiasm. Alex can be very charming, but his emotions are like fireworks bursting and exploding with intensity. Sometimes, even the most minor things would trigger those big feelings inside him. We helped Alex self-regulate through our BrainBehaviorResetTM Program.

Parent Tips: Emotional Intelligence Strategies for Kids 
BLOG - Self-Regulation and Emotional Intelligence Essential Strategies for Developing Skills

Parents must help their children handle and control their emotions otherwise your dysregulated kid will struggle more and more with increased social-emotional demands. You can start by modeling calmness, practicing patience, validating your child's feelings, and guiding them toward healthy coping strategies (Siegel & Bryson, 2012). It's also beneficial to establish open lines of communication, encouraging your child to express their feelings and frustrations constructively. 

These self-regulation techniques can help greatly: 

1. Keep Communication Open

Allow your child to talk about their feelings and emotions. Show genuine interest in their thoughts and experiences, making them feel validated and understood.

2. Use Positive Reinforcement to Shape Behaviors

Recognize and reward good behavior. Positive reinforcement and extrinsic motivation strategies can encourage your child to handle their anger and frustration more constructively.

3. Share Your Calm

Children often mirror the behaviors they observe. So if you stay calm during difficult situations, it's more likely your child will too. Practice brain breaks and deep breaths if you have to. These practices help restore your calm.

4. Whisper, Don't Yell

Lowering your voice in heated moments can help de-escalate the situation and promote calmness. It also models the respectful communication you'd like your child to adopt. Remember that your child can read your facial expressions, so don't let those negative emotions get in the way. 

5. Role Model Desired Behavior

Display the behavior you want your child to learn. Then, you show your child how to do the same by handling your emotions healthily and constructively. You can teach children better by showing them how it's done instead of merely telling them how to do it.

6. Teach Tolerance for Uncomfortableness

Help your child understand that feeling uncomfortable emotions, thoughts, and sensations is okay. Teach them how to identify these and learn how to use coping skills. Kids with high distress tolerance are better equipped to achieve academic success. 

7. Use Sensory Strategies

Techniques such as deep and slow breathing, calming music, or a stress ball can help children regulate their big emotions and react to stress. There are breathing exercises applicable even for preschool-aged children. In addition, doing some relaxation techniques is always a good idea. 

8. Let Them Know Expectations in Advance

Children often handle different situations better when they know their expectations. Telling your child about the plan or schedule can help minimize potential frustration and conflict, especially when social demands are high.

9. Limit Phone Use

Excessive screen time can overstimulate the brain and hinder self-regulation. Set boundaries around phone use and encourage alternative activities that promote relaxation and self-reflection. 

Limit Phone Use

Instead of using mobile phones, why not initiate self-regulation activities for kids? For example, you can encourage your child to read picture books or play with stuffed animals. Pretend play and physical exercises are good alternatives too. 

10. Teach Organization Skills 

Something as simple as organization skills can promote self-regulation. Establish routines, use visual schedules, and provide clear expectations to help children stay organized and manage their time effectively. Promoting organization in the classroom and at home could help improve their academic performance. 

How to Help a Child Regulate Their Emotions Through Parenting
How to Help a Child Regulate Their Emotions Through Parenting

Foster a positive and supportive parenting style by using natural consequences and providing emotional guidance instead of punitive measures. Focus on teaching self-regulation and reinforcing desired behaviors rather than controlling. Authoritarianism or parental permissiveness may not work if your goal is to improve self-regulation in children. 

Remember that one’s ability to regulate emotions is not innate but acquired through learning. So, when children grow up with permissive parents who do not impose control or regulation over their daily activities, behavior, and emotions, they often encounter challenges in self-regulation.

The permissive parenting style refrains from setting boundaries or guiding their children's behavior, resulting in a limited understanding of acceptable limits. Consequently, these children struggle with controlling impulses, and exhibit increased behavioral issues. Moreover, when confronted with stress in school or other places, they are more prone to resorting to aggression as a coping mechanism.

On the other hand, positive parenting empowers parents to create nurturing and supportive environments that promote child development, well-being, and resilience. Parents can contribute to their kid's emotional intelligence and overall happiness and success by focusing on their strengths, positive relationships, and emotional well-being.

Natural Solutions to Better Emotional Regulation for Kids

There are natural, science-backed solutions to help children with self regulation issues. In the case of Alex, he practices deep breathing that calms down his emotions during intense excitement or frustration. 

He also has a special journal to keep a list of emotions and feelings or express them through drawings. It helps him gain a better understanding of his inner world. Here are other solutions that can improve how kids self-regulate. 

Neurofeedback

Neurofeedback uses special sensors to monitor the brain's activity in real-time. It's like having a window into our kids' brains, allowing them to see how their thoughts and emotions are connected to their brainwaves. With this knowledge, they can learn to regulate their brain activity and achieve an emotional state of calm and focus (Mirifar et al., 2022).

PEMF

PEMF therapy uses low-frequency electromagnetic fields to stimulate our kids' brains and bodies. It's like a gentle hug from the inside, soothing their nervous system and promoting balance and harmony.

PEMF therapy has been shown to have incredible benefits for self-regulation. It helps kids find their inner calm and focus. In addition, studies have shown that PEMF therapy can improve attention, reduce anxiety, and enhance emotional well-being (Bech et al., 2011). 

Take our Solution Matcher to discover science-backed solutions tailored to your child's needs. It will guide you in finding the most effective strategies and resources to support your child's self-regulation journey.

Apply for our BrainBehaviorReset™  Program, designed to reset and optimize your child's brain and behavior. We offer a step-by-step approach to managing mental health issues and developing self-regulation skills through evidence-based techniques. 

Citations

Bech, P., Gefke, M., Lunde, M., Lauritzen, L., & Martiny, K. (2011). The Pharmacopsychometric Triangle to Illustrate the Effectiveness of T-PEMF Concomitant with Antidepressants in Treatment-Resistant Patients: A Double-Blind, Randomised, Sham-Controlled Trial Revisited with Focus on the Patient-Reported Outcomes. Depression Research and Treatment, 2011, 1–6. https://doi.org/10.1155/2011/806298

Mirifar, A., Keil, A., & Ehrlenspiel, F. (2022). Neurofeedback and neural self-regulation: a new perspective based on allostasis. Reviews in the Neurosciences, 33(6), 607–629. https://doi.org/10.1515/revneuro-2021-0133

Siegel, D. J., & Bryson, T. P. (2012). The whole-brain child: 12 revolutionary strategies to nurture your child's developing mind. New York, NY: Delacorte Press.

Always remember… “Calm Brain, Happy Family™”

Are you looking for SOLUTIONS for your struggling child or teen? 

Dr. Roseann and her team are all about solutions, so you are in the right place! 

There are 3 ways to work with Dr. Roseann: 

 

You can get her books for parents and professionals, including: It’s Gonna Be OK™: Proven Ways to Improve Your Child’s Mental Health, Teletherapy Toolkit™ and Brain Under Attack: A Resource For Parents and Caregivers of Children With PANS, PANDAS, and Autoimmune Encephalopathy.

If you are a business or organization that needs proactive guidance to support employee mental health or an organization looking for a brand representative, check out Dr. Roseann’s media page and professional speaking page to see how we can work together. 

Dr. Roseann is a Children’s Mental Health Expert and Licensed Therapist who has been featured in/on hundreds of media outlets including The Mel Robbins Show, CBS, NBC, PIX11 NYC, Today, FORBES, CNN, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Business Insider, Women’s Day, Healthline, CNET, Parade Magazine and PARENTS. FORBES called her, “A thought leader in children’s mental health.

Dr. Roseann - Brain Behavior Reset Parent Toolkit

She coined the terms, “Re-entry panic syndrome” and “eco-anxiety” and is a frequent contributor to media on mental health. 

Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge has three decades of experience in working with children, teens and their families with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, concussion, dyslexia and learning disability, anxiety, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), depression and mood disorder, Lyme Disease, and PANS/PANDAS using science-backed natural mental health solutions such as supplements, magnesium, nutrition, QEEG Brain maps, neurofeedback, PEMF, psychotherapy and other non-medication approaches. 

She is the author of three bestselling books, It’s Gonna Be OK!: Proven Ways to Improve Your Child's Mental Health, The Teletherapy Toolkit, and Brain Under Attack. Dr. Roseann is known for offering a message of hope through science-endorsed methods that promote a calm brain. 

Her trademarked BrainBehaviorResetⓇ Program and It’s Gonna be OK!Ⓡ Podcast has been a cornerstone for thousands of parents facing mental health, behavioral or neurodevelopmental challenges.

She is the founder and director of The Global Institute of Children’s Mental Health, Neurotastic™Brain Formulas and Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge, LLC. Dr. Roseann is a Board Certified Neurofeedback (BCN) Practitioner, a Board Member of the Northeast Region Biofeedback Society (NRBS), Certified Integrative Mental Health Professional (CIMHP) and an Amen Clinic Certified Brain Health Coach.  She is also a member of The International Lyme Disease and Associated Disease Society (ILADS), The American Psychological Association (APA), Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), International OCD Foundation (IOCDF).

© Roseann-Capanna-Hodge, LLC 2023

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to give health advice and it is recommended to consult with a physician before beginning any new wellness regime. *The effectiveness of diagnosis and treatment vary by patient and condition. Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge, LLC does not guarantee certain results.

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