Brecksville occupational therapists

Frustration Tolerance: How Our Brecksville Occupational Therapists Help Kids Manage Frustration

Frustration tolerance is the ability to successfully manage feelings of frustration. It’s a tough skill to master, and it’s something with which a lot of kids struggle. As our Cleveland occupational therapists can explain, having low frustration tolerance can make completing even the most basic tasks an uphill battle.

Frustration is an emotional response occurring when something goes wrong or what we desire doesn’t come to fruition. Teaching kids to cope with frustration is essential to helping them become adults who are patient, decisive and capable.

Kids with low frustration may:

  • Get easily upset.
  • Have difficulty accepting or moving on from defeat/not winning at a game.
  • Have trouble solving things easily or right away.
  • Give up easily.
  • Have trouble concentrating (unable to listen to a full story/focus on their school work).
  • Struggle with reduced social skills, uninterested in playing with other kids (which becomes cyclical in other kids’ response to them).

Of course, ups and downs are a normal part of childhood – and of life! Children may experience stress and discomfort when faced with new situations or environments (and the beginning of a new school year is a good time to talk about this!). But parents, caregivers, and occupational therapists can respond with care and understanding, while still teaching them how to appropriately respond to frustrating situations.

Teaching a child how to successfully manage their feelings and behaviors (saving those “big reactions” for problems that actually are big) is what we call self-regulation.

It should be noted that self-regulation, self-regulation is a skill that develops like any other – over time, and with practice. Even by the time kids are in preschool, self-regulation skills are still emerging, and you’ll notice (perhaps to your own frustration) that they fluctuate regularly. However, by the time most kids reach school-age, they are more flexible, their frustration tolerance is higher, and they’re better able to manage both their emotions and behaviors.

Kids with developmental delays and disabilities might continue to struggle with this, and that’s something with which our Brecksville occupational therapists can help through play-based therapy.

Some of the ways our occupational therapists help kids to overcome their emotional challenges and frustration include:

  • Deep breathing exercises.
  • Short bursts of physical activity/exercise to burn off excess energy.
  • Use of things like stress balls and fidget toys.
  • Learning to count to ten (or 20 or higher) before responding.
  • Instructing kids on “the size of the problem,” and how to match the size of our reactions to the size of the problem.
  • Teaching that no matter how big our emotions, we have the power to “change the channel.”

As with all of the work we do with kids, we believe it’s imperative to have parents, teachers, siblings, and caregivers on board to help not only reinforce our strategies but to model good behavior – even in frustrating situations.

If your child is struggling with self-regulation, our pediatric occupational therapists can help.

Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – is a pediatric therapy center providing occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy and ABA therapy to children with special needs in Northeast Ohio. We also offer summer camp, day programs, education services, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email. Serving Brecksville, Akron, Cleveland and surrounding communities in Northeast Ohio.

Additional Resources:

Promoting Self-Regulation in the First Five Years: A Practice Brief, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

More Blog Entries:

Occupational Therapy vs. Physical Therapy: What’s the Difference? July 3, 2021, Brecksville Occupational Therapists Blog