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Emotional Regulation

Emotional regulation is a skill. Managing our response to events that trigger strong feelings is easier for some than others. For many of us we learn to regulate our emotions as we grow – we no longer throw a tantrum in a supermarket when we are frustrated or over tired! How easy we find this is dependent on our personality, experiences and environment.

Some people’s early caregivers will have given children and young people the emotional language and coping strategies to manage their feelings fairly well most of the time. Others may have had little guidance to manage this, or may have additional needs that make this harder.
Because emotional regulation is a skill it can be practised and improved upon to some extent throughout life.

Learning to control our emotions makes life easier and allows us take ownership of our reactions to difficult experiences.

School has an important role to play in supporting children to regulate their emotions.
When young people can better manage their feelings and frustrations they can build positive relationships and fully access their education. When children and young people cannot self-regulate they may frequently face sanctions and disagreements that get in the way them reaching their potential

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  • School cultures where talking about and managing emotions is an everday occurrence allow children and young people to develop an emotional language. This encourages children and young people to voice their feelings rather than acting them out.

    Teachers often have a ringside seat to children and young people’s struggles with emotional regulation. They are in a good position to notice changes in behaviours and triggers for outbursts. This may be new behaviour and can indicate a child is struggling for any number of reasons at school or at home – and needs exploring. Other children and young people will be ‘well known’ for their acting out behaviours.

    A consistent message to give is that no emotion is ‘wrong’. Supporting pupils to learn how to manage feelings positively can make a difference to how children and young people react. Some children will find this harder than others for a range of reasons including those children who have diagnosed additional needs – however everyone can benefit from the opportunity to reflect on how they react to difficult experiences. For some this might work in a whole class context whilst others will need individual time to make sense of how they can better regulate their emotions.

    Helping children and Young People learn to regulate their emotions does not have to be time consuming or complicated

    • Whenever an opportunity arises discuss emotions using a range of ‘feelings’ words
    • Help children identify the changes in their body that come with a feeling; early warnings of anger like feeling hot or anxiety making the heart beat faster.
    • Help children come up with strategies to help when a ‘difficult feeling’ is building – like taking time out, doing a breathing exercise.
    • Support and remind children to use their strategies – and praise and reinforce effort even if it doesn’t always work out.

    Feelings cards?

    Getting parents and carers involved will make interventions more likely to succeed. You could signpost families to the free online ‘Solihull Course’  *here*

    There is a wealth of information to help schools support children regulate emotion and many children will benefit greatly from this. Self regulation is an important skill that impacts on every aspect of life even small changes can make a big difference going forward.

    Some children may struggle to make any change. This might mean they are;
    • Not able to contain their feelings - posing a risk to themselves or others
    • Not able to build or maintain relationships
    • Not able to access their education because of their behaviour

    If you are worried consider an onward referral for more specialist assessment. You can call JustOneNumber on 0300 300 0123 for advice on next steps.

  • Social Work Tool Box – huge range of worksheets for group and individual work here

    Headspace App – mindful, short meditations – includes some free resources *here*

    Bodyscan Mindfulness Activity *here*

    Mindfulness for Children ‘Take 5’ breathing exercise *here*

    Mind in Hand – Phone app designed for people with Autism *here*

    The Children’s Society have a range of age specific resources to support work on managing feelings *here*

    Other Services

    Early Intervention Work may be available from The Benjamin Foundation check eligibility *here*

    PATHS (by Barnardos) works in schools to help development of self-control, emotional awareness and interpersonal problem-solving skills. The programme consists of a variety of lessons, and additional materials find out more *here*

    The THRIVE approach offers online and in school education on understanding of behaviours based on neuroscience, attachment theory and child development *here*

    Shelf Help
    My Hidden Chimp by Prof Steve Peters book - find out more *here*

    Norfolk County Council libraries – have a wide range of books on managing feelings *here*


Who can help?

For support or advice young people, families and professionals can contact:

Just One Number for Norfolk Children and Young People’s Health Services Tel: 0300 300 0123 Monday-Friday 9am-5pm Saturday 9am-1pm.

Parents can use Parentline Text messaging service: 07520 631590

Young people aged 11-19 can text Chat Health on 07480635060

Other parents who are going through or have been through this before can be a big help to you, friends or family, or you could join our online forum to speak to Norfolk Parents

CLICK HERE to find out more

Find out about the enhanced School Nurse offer ...(content required?)

And the emotional health pathway *here*

Just One Norfolk (Children and Young People’s Health Services)

Heath Needs Assessments                     More content required here?
Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire
Resilience and Emotional Health Practitioners
Digital Health Profile – themed drop ins.
Onward referrals can be made to CAMHS, MAP, Point One.
Signposting to other services/charitable organisations.


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