Kids & Company Blog

Embracing All the Feels: Practicing Emotional Regulation

This blog is written by our guest author Ulrica Jobe, a Parenting Coach with The Giving Tree Centre, a children’s mental health clinic comprised of an experienced team of mental health professionals (child psychologists & psychotherapists, occupational therapists, speech language pathologists and parent coaches) who help kids and families develop the awareness, skills and capacity to heal, grow, learn and thrive. Learn more about The Giving Tree Centre and Ulrica here.  

Learn how to navigate and regulate your own big emotions, so you can effectively help your child regulate theirs.

Have you ever found yourself swept away by an emotional tidal wave due to stress or being overwhelmed? Have patience and temper ever slipped through your grasp? Moments later, you look back and wonder,  “What  happened here?!”  Then the familiar replay starts in your head:  “I should have…”or “I shouldn’t have…”

Cue, the wave of guilt.

If you have been there, read on - this blog is for you.  Let’s start with the basics.

Why is it important to learn how to regulate our own emotions?

It’s simple.  Babies and children learn emotional regulation from us.  We are their role models.  If we throw tantrums, they throw tantrums.  If we yell, they yell. By becoming the calm in their storm, we teach them to weather it serenely.  When we create an environment that feels emotionally safe, our children can express and experience their own emotions.  

Children want to be  seen, heard and understood, especially when they are experiencing all the big “feels”.  So, if we connect in those moments, children learn that feelings are not to be feared or extinguished.  They learn that all feelings have a purpose; there are no good and bad feelings, and most importantly, we have the ability to choose how to respond to them.

How do I learn how to regulate my emotions? How can I practice regulation?

It is difficult, but absolutely possible.  There is a common misconception that people are hardwired and incapable of making changes.  Research proves otherwise.  So, let's start there! Below are five suggestions of how you can start today!  

  1. Embrace Awareness: Tune into your moods, feelings, and emotions.  What is most important is that you recognize and respect your current feelings so that you can make a conscious decision, rather than an immediate reaction on how best to respond.  Once you recognize your emotions, it helps if you name what you are feeling out loud.
  2. Uncover Triggers: Be aware of your own triggers (ie. being late, making a mess, talk-back, disrespectfulness).  Be curious and explore why these are triggering for you.  This will help you become more self-aware.
  3. The Unexpected Response: Respond in an unexpected way!  When you start to feel those familiar sensations that you are about to lose control, give your child a big hug or do something goofy.  It works!  It decreases the stress of the situation and can change the outcome.
  4. Self–care.  Yes, that’s right!  At the end of the day, if you are running on empty and you have nothing left to give, regulating your own emotions is an impossible task.
  5. Plan for Imperfection: Create a plan that works for you, and practice being self-compassionate.  Understand that you will mess up, and you will make mistakes.  No one is perfect.  We are striving to be better, not perfect.  Write down your plan and practice.  A failed attempt is better than no attempt at all and propels progress.    

Three fun facts in closing…

  1. Every time you stay calm, you are rewiring your own brain and creating a pathway to continue staying calm in the future! 
  2. By staying connected, your child feels seen, heard, and understood, rather than shamed or distressed.
  3. Staying calm decreases the stress hormone in your brain as well as your child’s brain, which helps you both calm down more quickly, and results in a lot less guilt for not having lost control!

Final thoughts and takeaways…

When your child is having a moment, your response to that will determine the outcome.  When we get triggered and react without thinking, we throw more fuel on the fire and the flames get bigger.  If we stay calm and connected, it will help guide your child’s behaviour and response in the moment, and in the future.  How we respond, rather than react during these moments deeply affects our children’s ability to self-regulate and is also how your child will learn to respond versus react.  If you want them to learn how to be in control of themselves, it will need to start with you.  

The Giving Tree Centre was founded in response to the children's mental health crisis that has worsened as a result of the global COVID pandemic. They provide comprehensive services which include individual psychotherapy, play therapy, parent-child therapy, family therapy, group therapy, occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, behaviour therapy, and parent coaching. Assessments include psychological tests and evaluations to develop an in-depth understanding of each child and family’s specific needs, strengths and challenges. Visit for more information and for a free consultation.

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