Regulating our emotions is an ability that we all struggle with at times. We will all have experienced being overwhelmed by anxiety, thoughts and events that are often out of our control. As adults we have good language skills which can often help us work through our difficulty by talking to friends, family and colleagues. We also have life experience that we can draw upon. For young children the only way of communicating their distress and anxiety is through emotional outbursts.
Managing children with difficulties in emotional regulation requires careful, considerate and compassionate responses. This can involve being reactive; where the emphasis is on trying to de-escalate the situation and support the child to become calmer, more self-composed and compliant. The second approach is to be proactive in managing the child's emotional state. This can involve anticipating triggers, recognising early warning signals and support the child to develop emotional regulation skills.
When the child is distraught or being aggressively angry they may respond to one or more of the following strategies:
giving time to calm down - wait until they are totally calm before dealing with incidents
distracting activities such as drawing, Lego, wordsearches, reading, maths sheets
avoiding escalating the situation by giving ultimatums and threats
designated space to go to - this should be agreed in advance and provide the child with a place they feel safe and can be calm in
reducing sensory 'noise' by making the environment less busy, quiet etc.