Parenting Resources

Helping your Elementary Age Child Develop Emotion Regulation

Children who make friends easily usually have good conversational (verbal) skills, social skills, and also have emotional self-control or emotion regulation. 

“Emotion regulation” is the ability to react appropriately to one’s own emotions and regulate those emotions, especially during social interactions.  Emotion regulation is thus a crucial skill for the development of relationships and friendships. 

One study indicates that 5 year old children whose mothers allowed them to express emotions in a healthy and positive manner had improved friendship quality when they were 7 to 10 years of age.

The authors state, “When parents talk about emotions, they clarify their children’s emotional state, draw children’s awareness to their own emotions, and instruct their children on how to respond appropriately to emotion-related experiences.” (Blair BL, Perry NB, et al.  The Indirect Effects of Maternal Emotion Socialization on Friendship Quality in Middle Childhood.  Devel Psychol.  2014; 50(2):566-576

The following are tips on encouraging your elementary age children to develop emotional regulation:

  • Allow your child to have and express negative emotions. 
  • Do not ‘dismiss’ your child’s negative emotions or trivialize them by saying comments like, “There is no need to be angry.”  “Stop being disappointed.”  “Stop being silly.”
  • Do not punish children for their emotions
  • Help your child strategize about how to handle his emotions.  “What can you do when you are feeling so angry?” 
  • You can still set limits on behavior or actions.  “I see how upset you are, but you are not allowed to hit others.”
  • Explain and discuss the reason underlying the rules in your home – and allow your child to ask questions.  Parents who set firm limits but do so with warmth and understanding have children who are more self-controlled and who therefore have more friends.
  • Practice communication skills at home.  The dinner table is a great place to help children develop and practice these important social skills.
    • Teach your children to be ‘active listeners’. “What did you hear your brother say he liked about school today?”
    • Teach them to engage others in conversation. “What question can you ask him to show him you are interested and want to learn more?”
    • Talk about when it is appropriate to interrupt a conversation and how to do it politely

Remember – children are not learning communication and social skills when they are using technology. 

  • Set limits on cell phone and computer use for everyone in the family.
  • It is especially important to stop all device use by one hour before bed time, otherwise, your child’s brain cannot “turn off.”