submitted by Carla Hosmar
We underestimate how many transitions our LCH students experience in a day that can bring on many forms of emotional responses: waking up excited (or not) for school, boredom on the bus, changing classes, doing poorly on a test, fear of presenting in front of a class, excited to spend time with friends at lunch, getting called on by the teacher when you don’t know the answer, last period on a Friday excitement, walking by a classmate in the hall who upset you the day before, social adjustment, etc., just to name a few.
Emotion regulation is defined as “the processes by which individuals influence which emotions they have, when they have them, and how they experience and express these emotions.” In essence, how to deal with the range of emotions a person experiences in a flexible and socially-tolerable way.
Our minds and bodies are closely linked and the health of one directly affects the other. Adolescents between the ages of 11 and 15 have developmentally unbalanced self-regulation. Knowing this means it is critical to have positive strategies and supports in place for reducing risk and increasing resilience; more so for those who’ve made poor decisions or have had negative childhood experiences.
It is difficult to regulate our emotions if we have an unhealthy body. The following acronym is used in DBT (Dialectical Behaviour Therapy) to help individuals remember important aspects of this connection:
Pl – Treat physical illness
E – Eat Healthy
A – Avoid Mood-Altering Drugs
S – Sleep Well
E – Exercise
Other strategies you can use to help regulate your child’s emotions are:
- – Providing your child with a warm and responsive relationship where they feel safe to learn and make mistakes as they increasingly navigate bigger decisions and more challenging situations on their own (i.e. peer pressure). This type of relationship helps motivate your child to learn, practice, and implement self-regulation skills.
- – Structuring their environment provides a buffer against environmental stressors. It involves limiting opportunities for risk-taking behaviours, providing positive discipline and natural consequences for poor decisions and reducing the emotional intensity of conflict situation (i.e. giving time and space to calm down as needed).
- – Students need to feel heard. Sometimes listening is all you need to do instead of ‘fixing it’.
- – Model self-regulation skills; talk about the emotion you’re experiencing and what you are using to help you regulate that emotion
Here in the Learning Commons, we encourage students to adjust their thought process rather than suppress emotions because research tells there are negative ramifications if we suppress our emotions; negative physiological responses, negative impact on memory, social support, and they may experience less positive emotions. We do our best to model with students how to problem solve the situation presented and verbally work through issues. Creating plans to deal with the educational and extracurricular demands is helpful as well. Sometimes, counseling (CBT or DBT) is the best option to learn new cognitive interventions addressing thought processes.