What is emotional control and how do we help develop it in children?
Emotional control is an executive function and is the ability to regulate and manage really strong, intense emotions. Those emotions can be positive or negative. If you get frustrated, are you able to calm yourself down? If you start laughing and can't stop - that's a really intense emotion. But, sometimes, we need to be able to reign it in. That's emotional control. We often talk about emotional regulation, and that really means the same thing.
There are strategies that we can use to calm ourselves down, and these are different for everybody. Hopefully, you know what strategies work for you, but children sometimes need time and help to figure that out. They may need some suggestions about the types of things that they can do when they find themselves overly aroused. Maybe it's taking a break. Do they need to just walk to the end of the hallway and back, take a few breaths and then reengage?
How do we develop emotional control? With young children, the first thing we need to do is help them identify or recognize the emotion and how it affects their bodies. Then, we need to find a strategy that helps them calm down. For example, deep breathing works well for some children. Exercise, taking a break if they have a place where they can run, such as around a building or around a track, can be really useful. Drawing or journaling, and talking to a friend are all ways to develop emotional control. There are a number of different ways that people can self-regulate, so it's a matter of helping children and young adults figure out what works for them. Once that's identified, it's a matter of practicing it. There will be many opportunities over the course of life to practice emotional control. Children need to know that they need to use those strategies on a regular basis so that they become second nature.
This ATE is an excerpt from the course, Executive Functioning: Targeting Students' Skills through an Interdisciplinary Lens, presented by Katrina Fulcher-Rood, Pamela Schuetze and Kathy Doody.