5 Best Practices to Encourage Emotion Regulation in Teens
Photo by: Priscilla Du Perez on Unsplash.
Editor’s note: This blog post is the second of a two-part series. You can read part one here.
In a previous post, we learned about the importance of emotional expression, and the ways in which parents can increase their teen’s emotional awareness. In this part-two post, I will address the best practices for fostering emotional regulation in youth.
Parents, your children learn how to manage their emotions by watching you. So, think of yourself as an emotion coach.1
Becoming an Emotion Coach
Modeling healthy emotional expression and teaching your kids how to regulate emotions will not only strengthen the bond you have with your child, but will also equip your child to face life’s emotional challenges. Here are five steps to encouraging emotion regulation in youth:
1. Teach your teens to label their emotions.
Often, teens can feel like their emotions are overwhelming and hard to control. Teaching your child to label their emotions gives them control over their emotional experience and makes it more likely for them to regulate their emotions. Consider asking your child:
- How are you feeling both physically and mentally right now?
- Did you feel different emotions throughout the day?
- Can you describe the different emotions?
2. Invite your teens to be curious about their emotions.
If teens feel like their emotions are overwhelming and hard to control, then they may become afraid of their emotional experiences. Inviting your teens to be curious about their emotions removes the fear that emotions are scary and unmanageable. Consider asking your child:
- Why do you think you are feeling that specific emotion?
- Have you felt this way before? If so, when did you feel like this?
- How does your body and mind respond when you feel this way?
- Do you like or dislike feeling this emotion?
3. Empathize and validate your teens’ emotions.
Empathizing and validating your child’s emotions teaches your child that their emotional reactions are natural and nothing to be afraid of. Being sensitive to and acknowledging your child’s emotions allows your child to feel understood and cared for by you. Tell your child:
- It’s okay to feel _________________.
- I understand why you feel _________________.
- It makes sense that you feel _________________.
4. Engage your child in discussion about how to manage his/her emotions.2
Encourage your child to reflect on, understand, and manage his/her emotional experience using these conversation starters:
- Let’s try to understand why you feel this way.
- Why do you think you feel _________________?
- Why don’t we try to think about something else?
- Let’s think about another way to approach this problem.
- What would make you feel better in this situation?
- If you’ve felt this way before, what did you do to feel better?
5. Help your teens learn from their emotional experiences.
Lastly, check in with your child to see if these practices were helpful for them, and remind your child of the importance of these emotional regulation strategies for their lifelong emotional development. Questions to consider asking when checking-in:
- What can you learn about yourself and your emotions from this experience?
- Was this helpful or unhelpful? Why?
- When your emotions start to feel overwhelming or out of control, remember to use these strategies to help you to calm down.
Parents, this is a continued practice that is critical for your child’s emotional development. Emotion regulation must be nurtured and practiced with your child on a daily basis to ensure that they become emotionally healthier adults!
We’ve created this printable one-sheet of the 8 parenting practices from this two-part blog series. Keep these parenting practices handy in your home or office!
1. Stifter, Spinrad, & Braungart-Reiker, 1999; Crockenberg & Litman, 1990; Holden & West, 1989; Kuczynski, 1984; Schaffer & Crook, 1980
2. Gottman, Katz, & Hooven, 1996
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