what is emotion regulation

Emotion regulation means that you can recognize and manage the feelings behind his behavior.  Because strong feelings can get in the way of making good decisions, this skill requires a combination of self-awareness and self-control.  First, you must be able to recognize when your feelings are intensifying and identify those feelings and second, control your behavior in that situation.  

The key to emotion regulation is recognizing and identifying emotional responses as they are happening.  It does relatively little good to recognize that you lashed out at your friend because you were embarrassed after you’ve already hurt her feelings. Once you’re aware of underlying emotions, it’s then possible to control your behavioral responses in that situation.

A school-age child having tantrums and displaying impulsive behavior, both more common in toddlers and preschoolers, may have an issue related to emotion regulation. Is your child showing inappropriate behavior for his environment? Can your child calm himself down after getting upset, and handle frustration without an outburst? If not, he may need assistance.

How to Help

The goal of emotion regulation practice is to get your child to pay close attention to things that happened before, during, and after an emotional event.  Reinforce that when she has strong feelings that could get in the way of making a good choice, it’s important to calm down before reacting so that she is in charge of her feelings, not the other way around.


If your child has difficulty understanding her emotions, help her explore the physical signs associated with different feelings, such as a racing heart or clenched jaw when feeling angry. By recognizing the physical signs first, she can learn to identify different emotions. Reinforce her efforts to take a break when she feels strong emotions. Teach her to count to ten, go to her room, take several deep breaths, or do something to help herself cool down.


How do you show your child the best way to express emotions? Do your actions teach her to be aware of her emotions and to think about them before she acts?

If your child sees that you are aware of how you feel and are able to make good choices about what you say and do, then she will be more likely to understand the value of self awareness. The next time you experience strong emotions in the presence of your child, demonstrate your awareness and willingness to make positive choices with your feelings. Count to ten out loud, and explain to her what you are feeling and why you are doing what you are doing.

Role Playing

Generate a role-play where your child must identify and name her own emotions. Here are some possible scenarios:

  • A kid on the bus makes fun of you
  • A popular kid in your class tries to get you to take something from the teacher’s desk

Help her to identify her emotions and discuss the physical signs she experiences.


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Talk about how you know what is happening inside yourself. Ask, “How do you know when you are getting upset?” Let your child discuss what she feels inside. If she has difficulty answering this question, ask her, “How do you know when I am upset?” Let her tell you what she observes in you. If self- awareness is a new concept, she may find it easier to first describe your behaviors. By comparison, you can explore if she can recall occasions where she dealt with mad, sad or scared in similar or different ways as you.