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Emotion Regulation

Emotion Regulation

A meltdown, the typical response from a two year old when he is unable to have the thing he wants, can be the ultimate problem for parents. Couple that meltdown with a public display, and a seemingly calm and confident parent turns into a whining, bribing, pleading yelling out of control adult! Why?

John Gottman a professor of psychology at the University of Washington and author of Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child, tells us to let go of your “Parental Agenda”. He explains that when a child has big emotions and is feeling out of control, it is a time for parents to label the emotion for their child, accept this as a teachable moment, and demonstrate empathy. He further explains that we need to let go of what we think should happen and accept what is. Our response will then come from the part of the brain that calms emotion and problem solves: the frontal lobe.

Taking a closer look at that child who is out of control, we see a child who is developmentally in the “me Stage”: he wants it, and in his mind then he should have it. The parent has set the limit and the child has hit a wall. The limit has been set, but we can still imagine how that child feels…we can empathize with him. By verbalizing his emotion back to him,” I think you’re angry or frustrated”, and saying we know how that feels, we offer the child a moment of understanding, of connection. We can tell him that we wish he could get everything he wants, but as a parent we know that is not good for him. We can use this as a “teachable moment” and problem solve with him, or suggest something else to do. Of course if the child is unable to “hear us”, we might need to wait it out and then offer the labeling and empathy.

Emotion regulation is the ability to understand and manage feelings. When we can regulate emotion we have less stress and can control our impulses. As parents we want to help our children become regulated, as that will increase their ability to learn and problem solve, which are abilities that are tied executive functioning of the brain.

Gottman tells us, “Empathy not only matters, it is the foundation of effective parenting”. We need to create an “Empathy Reflex” and make it the first response to an emotional situation. This skill entails: describing the emotion you see, then making a guess as to why this is happening. This will help you to defuse the anger, and connect to your child in a way that will help calm you both.
This skill, like all skills takes time to learn. Understanding your emotions is the first step in this process. Allow yourself to accept your own strong emotions, label them and try to identify what are the issues that create the most emotion in you. Once you have reflected on this, you can create a mental plan as to how you can handle these strong emotions when they arise. This pattern will flow quite naturally to helping your children to do the same. Meltdowns will still happen but their intensity and regularity will lessen and your ability to stay calm will increase.

Talking With Your Pediatrician

How to Talk to Your Pediatrician

When I was pregnant for the first time, I began my search for the perfect pediatrician. I made appointments to “interview” the perspective doctors and take a look at their practice. It seemed like the right thing to do, but many doctors were not accustomed to this type of “meet and greet”. I do think however, that they all appreciated my interest. Building a relationship with your doctor takes time and a willingness to fully participate. Over the years I got to know Dr. B and he became very well acquainted with my family. I asked many questions and discussed best practice when there was a choice. We didn’t always agree, but our discussions and disagreements were respectful. That respect helps you when tough decisions are to be made.

I continued to ask questions and often came prepared with information for my doctor to help with assessing the issues. It is important that if you disagree with your doctor’s advice, you should ask for a second opinion. You need to feel comfortable with the path you take. Below are a few tips on how to talk with the doctor. I combined my ideas with the CDC’ s recommendations. Remember you are the expert on your child. It is up to you to give the doctor the information he needs to understand your whole child. You are a team when it comes to your child’s medical and developmental health.

  1. Prepare for your visit to the doctor: If you have specific concerns, write them down so you don’t forget in the moment. Bring in that paper to help you relate your concerns to the doctor. If you are concerned about development, give specific instances or examples to help your doctor understand more fully your concerns. For further information request that your doctor perform a screening to assess where your child is developmentally.

  2. Ask all your questions at the visit: If your doctor seems to be in a hurry or you are unable to get your questions answered, ask if you can have follow up appointment or phone call. Take notes as to what the doctor has said to help you explain to a family member or when you need to follow up.

  3. Make sure you have processed what the doctor has said and understand what to do next. ( Restate what you have heard)

Your doctor may tell you to wait until the next visit or call a local community resource, or he may give you specific directions.

Be sure to follow up on activities and instructions when you are home, and then tell your doctor how it went.

There are many important decisions we as parents make as we navigate our children through childhood. Listening to our family and friends is not always helpful. Trusting our doctor to know the facts and give us sound medical advice is essential.

For more information on possible developmental concerns/milestones and what to do next: www.cdc.govbe/actearly

About this Blog

The HRC Blog will be a place for sharing information on special topics of interest such as family support, early childhood development, etc. Submit blog entries to Nancy.Spiegel@harborrc.org.

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