By: Elizabeth (Liz) Ener, PhD, LPC-S, RPT-S
As a part of teaching about emotional regulation with caregivers and parents, I usually start off by asking two questions: (1) What age do you think children should be able to initially demonstrate the skill of emotional regulation? (2) What age do you think emotional regulation should be mastered?
I usually follow up that discussion with some information about emotional regulation and what it entails. Emotional regulation is ultimately the ability to monitor and modulate our emotions when we have them. It also involves how we experience and express our emotions–considering all that it takes, emotional regulation a pretty complicated process—so let’s break it down.
Not so easy is it? To top it all off, should your child be neuro atypical (i.e., have attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism spectrum disorder…etc.), have experienced trauma, and/or struggle with anxiety/depression, the process to learn how to masterfully emotionally regulate will be that much tougher.
The truth is that we all lose our cool sometimes—this is something we can all relate to. After all, let’s think about the last time we handled a frustrating event and regulated ourselves masterfully through it. Emotional regulation is not a skill we are naturally born with; it must be modeled, tended to, and grown—which is an important role for parents and caregivers. We hope this blog serves as a gentle reminder to have empathy as your children learn this important skill (and empathy for yourselves in the process as well).
Koole, S. et.al. (2011). The self-regulation of emotion. In Vohs, K., Baumeister, R. (Eds).Handbook of self-regulation, second edition: research, theory, and applications.(pp 22-40). Guilford Press.