child emotional regulation tools

Why Our Akron OTs Prioritize A Child’s Emotional Regulation Skills

When it comes to child emotional regulation skills, our occupational therapy team has some great tools that parents can employ to help their kids better manage their emotional responses to everyday occurrences.

Emotional regulation for kids refers to the ability to understand, manage, and appropriately express their emotions in a healthy and constructive manner. It involves developing skills to recognize and label different emotions, understand the triggers that lead to emotional reactions, and utilize strategies to cope with and regulate those emotions effectively.

Our occupational therapists prioritize emotional regulation because children who have good emotional regulation skills are better equipped to handle challenging situations, cope with stress, maintain positive relationships, and engage in appropriate behaviors.

Some key aspects of emotional regulation for kids:

  1. Emotional Awareness. Children need to develop an understanding of their own emotions and recognize the various feelings they experience. This involves being able to identify and label emotions such as happiness, sadness, anger, fear, and frustration.
  2. Emotional Expression. Kids should learn how to express their emotions in a healthy and socially acceptable manner. This includes finding appropriate ways to communicate their feelings through words, gestures, or facial expressions, rather than resorting to tantrums, aggression, or other disruptive behaviors.
  3. Emotional Understanding. It’s important for children to grasp that emotions are a normal part of life and that everyone experiences them. Helping children understand that emotions can change and that they can influence their own emotions through their thoughts and actions is crucial.
  4. Emotional Regulation Strategies. Children should learn various strategies to manage and regulate their emotions. This may involve deep breathing exercises, engaging in physical activities, using positive self-talk, seeking support from trusted adults, engaging in hobbies or interests, or taking breaks to calm down.
  5. Coping Skills. Children need to develop healthy coping skills to deal with difficult or stressful situations. These skills may include problem-solving, seeking social support, using relaxation techniques, engaging in creative outlets like drawing or writing, or engaging in activities that bring them joy and comfort.
  6. Empathy and Perspective-Taking. Developing empathy and the ability to take others’ perspectives helps children understand and navigate their own emotions as well as those of others. It allows them to recognize that others may have different emotional experiences and respond with empathy and understanding.
  7. Self-Regulation. Children should learn to self-regulate their behaviors and actions in response to their emotions. This involves understanding the appropriate social norms and rules, managing impulsive behaviors, and making thoughtful choices.

By fostering these important developmental skills, children can enhance their overall well-being, build positive relationships, and navigate the challenges of daily life more effectively. Parents, caregivers, and educators play a vital role in supporting children’s emotional regulation development by providing guidance, modeling healthy emotional expression, and offering opportunities for practicing coping strategies.

How Our Akron Occupational Therapists Can Help With Child Emotional Regulation

Occupational therapists play a crucial role in helping children develop emotional regulation skills. Here are some strategies commonly used by occupational therapists to promote child emotional regulation:

  1. Sensory Integration Techniques. Occupational therapists often use sensory integration techniques to help children understand and regulate their emotions. They may provide sensory experiences that help children identify and manage their responses to different sensations.
  2. Deep Pressure and Proprioceptive Input. Deep pressure and proprioceptive input can be calming for children. Occupational therapists may use techniques such as weighted blankets, weighted vests, or deep pressure massages to help children regulate their emotions.
  3. Breathing and Relaxation Exercises. Teaching children breathing and relaxation exercises can be effective in promoting emotional regulation. Occupational therapists may use techniques like deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or guided imagery to help children calm down and manage their emotions.
  4. Social Skills Training. Developing social skills is essential for emotional regulation. Occupational therapists can teach children appropriate ways to express their emotions, understand social cues, and interact with others effectively.
  5. Visual Supports. Visual supports, such as visual schedules, emotion charts, or social stories, can be used by occupational therapists to help children understand and express their emotions. Visual supports provide a concrete way for children to identify and communicate their feelings.
  6. Play Therapy. Play therapy is an effective approach used by occupational therapists to help children explore and express their emotions in a safe and supportive environment. Through play, children can learn to regulate their emotions and develop coping strategies.
  7. Cognitive-Behavioral Strategies. Occupational therapists may use cognitive-behavioral strategies to help children identify and challenge negative thoughts or beliefs that contribute to emotional dysregulation. This may involve teaching children to reframe their thoughts or practice positive self-talk.
  8. Self-regulation Activities. Occupational therapists can engage children in activities that promote self-regulation, such as yoga, mindfulness exercises, or martial arts. These activities help children develop self-awareness and self-control.
  9. Environmental Modifications. Occupational therapists may suggest environmental modifications to create a more calming and organized space for children. This may include reducing clutter, providing designated areas for relaxation, or incorporating sensory supports like fidget tools or sensory breaks.
  10. Collaborating with Parents and Teachers. Occupational therapists work closely with parents and teachers to develop consistent strategies for emotional regulation. They can provide guidance and support in implementing strategies both at home and in the school setting.

It’s important to note that each child is unique, and occupational therapists tailor their interventions based on individual needs. The strategies mentioned above are general approaches used by occupational therapists but may be adapted or combined to meet specific requirements.

Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides occupational therapy to children in Akron, Cleveland, Brecksville-Broadview Heights and surrounding communities. We also offer occupational therapy, speech therapy, physical therapy, summer camp, day programs, education services, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email.

Additional Resources:

Zones of Regulation and Self Regulation Activities, Sept. 10, 2022, The OT Toolbox

More Blog Entries:

Top Self-Calming Strategies for Kids From Akron Occupational Therapists, April 22, 2023, Akron Occupational Therapy Blog