Our emotional expression in early childhood is our primary means of communication. I cry when I’m in trouble, and laugh and laugh when I’m happy.
We tend to get upset (e.g., angry, sad, frustrated) when something bad happens that we cannot control or when we find ourselves unable to control a situation to our liking.
As we get older, become more aware of events outside our immediate surroundings, and realize how difficult it is to control situations, including those involving others, the potential for negative emotions increases. The number of triggers is greatly increased.
Additionally, the likelihood of emotional outbursts can increase with age, ranging from crying, yelling, hitting, self-harm, and even more violent behavior. It can be affected by psychological conditions, such as being overwhelmed, or physical conditions, such as being hungry or in pain.
Fluctuating body chemistry can make managing emotions more difficult. This can occur due to the natural hormonal cycle in teens and adults, or as a side effect of medication. Changes in our neurological state can also affect emotional regulation, such as brain development in adolescents and people with dementia.
Fortunately, as we grow older, we can also learn to express our emotions through words and thoughtful actions, and to control or communicate our emotional reactions in constructive ways.
Different ages have different approaches to controlling emotions
Infants and toddlers can usually be soothed by an adult talking quietly, rocking them, cuddling them, or giving them their attention.
As children grow, they can be taught words and constructive actions to express their feelings. Adults usually act as role models on how to manage their emotions.
When people have trouble controlling their emotions, they may be referred for counseling.Counseling strategies vary by age.
Preschoolers usually enjoy listening to stories. So I often write stories with them using pictures that my patients have picked from the internet. You can copy these pictures and paste them into a small “book” to take home. The themes of the story include characters whose emotions are difficult to manage. I ask my patients what solutions they have for emotional outbursts and incorporate those ideas into their stories.
Other elements you can add to your story include friends, trusted adults, or wizards who can provide sound advice on how to manage strong emotions. Sometimes I include stories about how the main character gets rewarded for good behavior.
I regularly instruct carers of preschoolers to read stories to the children, but more often than not children end up telling or reading stories to their carers. Applying the solutions offered in the story usually improves emotional regulation at the same time.
Also, teach caregivers that speaking in quiet, comforting language, such as using affectionate first names, hugging, and spending quality time together, can calm preschoolers. I’m here.
school age child
I discuss with my children and their parents how to identify early signs of frustration so they can use emotion regulation techniques before emotions spiral out of control. If they are emotionally out of control, talking to them when they are very upset will not help because they cannot process much of the input. You should wait until your child has calmed down and discuss how you might better deal with potential future triggers of emotional outbursts.
School-aged children are often interested in superheroes, Pokémon, and Disney characters. When you want to calm yourself down, it’s a good idea to pretend to be this character by imagining what they’re wearing and what their clothes feel like. I’m usually a quiet person, so I think pretending to be like that will calm me down.
Many other imagery techniques use metaphors to alter emotional states. For example, children can be taught to imagine putting a negative emotion into a balloon filled with helium and releasing it. I have. Some children learn to control their emotions by manipulating imaginary control panels such as those featured in the 2015 animated film Inside Out.
School-age and older youth introduce the concept that how we think affects how we feel. I have. On the other hand, thinking about the same event in a different light can calm you down.
For example, a poor test score at school can upset a child. Another way to think about this situation is to think about what you can do in the future to improve the performance of your tests. By focusing on achieving good results, you can more easily dissipate the negative emotions from bad grades.
I teach my patients that directing them toward constructive activities such as sports, games, listening to music, or creative activities such as art, writing, or playing an instrument can help them better control their emotions. increase.
Another physical way to channel emotions involves teaching children how to breathe in slowly through their nose, hold their breath for a few seconds, and exhale slowly through their mouth for several breathing cycles. Children can also be taught to clap their hands when excited, ask for a hug when sad, fidget toys when nervous, and squeeze stress balls when angry.
Once your child has learned to control their emotions and remain calm, it is important to discuss the reasons for their emotional reactions or offer to take time to reflect. If necessary, it can be very helpful for your child to offer suggestions on how to better handle the triggering situation.
For example, children grieving the loss of a distant friend can be advised that they can keep in touch through the Internet or make new friends through it.
Learning how to avoid negative emotional triggers is another strategy that can help this age group. For example, children can be taught to stay away from younger siblings who are behaving annoyingly, or to be prepared to use self-soothing techniques whenever interacting with siblings.
Another common trigger occurs when parents ask their child to switch from a favorite activity to an uninteresting activity. For example, stopping a video game to complete homework. Effective strategies for avoiding such triggers include having children plan their daily activity schedule accurately. For example, by deciding ahead of time when to switch activities and offering additional opportunities to engage in the desired activity while working with the caregiver. .
teenagers and adults
I remind adolescents that their emotional responses are determined in part by their maturing brain and learning how to deal with more intense emotions caused by hormonal changes. I reassure them that as they get older it will be easier to deal with their feelings.
In addition to the emotion control techniques used with school-age children, self-soothing techniques using hypnosis are very useful for adolescents and adults who are trying to better regulate their emotions.
Patients can be taught to use hypnosis to relax by imagining themselves in a calm place. Then learn how to use physical gestures such as hand cues (such as crossing your fingers), tapping your feet, and taking slow, deep breaths to induce similar calmness at will. I encourage my patients to induce their relaxation response frequently so that it becomes second nature.
Teenagers and adults can better regulate their emotions by learning how to consult their subconscious. In my experience, a patient’s subconscious is much calmer than their conscious state, allowing them to calmly respond to difficult situations. can learn.
Each of us has the ability to improve our emotional regulation. Many tools can help us control our emotions, including various applications of imagery and self-hypnosis techniques.