Emotional Regulation as a Kid Can Be Challenging: These 7 Activities May Help


Some people think emotional regulation and “logic” skills like problem-solving are separate functions. But these processes are closely related. When our emotions are overpowering, we have a limited capacity to use the cognitive or “thinking” parts of the brain. 

For many children with ADHD, emotional dysregulation can make a broad impact in different areas of their lives. Meltdowns can put a strain on family relationships and home life, and big emotions can get in the way of schoolwork. Children who struggle with dysregulation are more likely to become targets of bullying at school, too.

Nobody is born with great emotional regulation skills, but we can develop them with the right tools and coaching. In this blog post, we’ll outline seven activities you can do with your child to help them get better at managing their emotions.


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7 emotional regulation activities for kids

Emotional regulation is a set of complex processes that require a lot of awareness, self-control, and resilience. These things take time to learn, and it’s important for kids to have compassion for themselves and others in the process. As a parent, one of the best ways you can support your child with emotional regulation is to polish your skills and teach by example. Be honest about what’s challenging for you and the choices you’re making to deal with your own emotions.

Working on emotional regulation skills is something the whole family can do together. Here are some activities you can do with your child to help them with emotional regulation:

  • Yoga Yoga can be an engaging and imaginative way for kids to develop the micro-skills that add up to emotional regulation, such as mind and body awareness, nonjudgment, control, and grace. We experience emotions in both our minds and bodies. Moving through different yoga poses helps kids notice those physical sensations so they can start to interpret them and respond in appropriate ways. 
  • Mindfulness practices — There’s a lot more to mindfulness than silent meditation. Dynamic activities like progressive muscle relaxation, guided meditations, and paired breathing and movement exercises are simple ways to help kids start practicing active awareness. Well-known games like "Simon Says", and "Red Light, Green Light" are fair game!
  • Emotion art — Expressive drawing, storytelling, and collage can give children ways to engage with their own emotions from a distance. Give them prompts like “When I feel happy …” or “Sadness feels like …” and let them get creative.
  • Write about emotions — This is a good exercise to practice both when your child is feeling good and when they’re dealing with tough emotions. Setting a timer for five minutes of writing about something specific can help them stay focused. Ask your child to write about times when they’ve felt emotions like anger or joy. When they’re facing something difficult, ask them to write about how they feel and then draw something around the words to keep them “stuck” to the page, like a box, pieces of tape, or a lock and key. You can also ask them to write about things that would make them feel better.
  • Mood check-ins — Learning to recognize your emotions in real-time takes practice. You can set reminders for mood check-ins throughout the day or check in whenever you transition to a new activity. If you drive your child to school, try making it a ritual to check in on the way to school and back. 
  • Your day in review — Appreciating the positives can go a long way to help us get through tough situations. Make it a part of your child’s bedtime routine to find at least one “high” point and one “low” from their day. Or make it a gratitude practice and ask for one thing they’re thankful for and one thing they would change.
  • Practice self-compassion — Self-compassion can be hard to practice, especially for kids with ADHD. Help your child come up with some positive affirmations they can use when they’re frustrated, such as “It’s OK to make mistakes” or “I can try again.”


Emotional regulation and Executive Functioning go hand in hand

Executive Function skills are life management skills that we all need in order to be effective in planning, initiating, and achieving daily goals at home, in school, and in the workplace. Emotional regulation is just one subset of Executive Function skills. At Beyond BookSmart, we created a guide to emotional regulation to support parents who are helping their children learn these skills.

We all deal with emotional dysregulation from time to time. But when it goes unaddressed, children have an increased risk of mental health issues like depression and anxiety. If your child is starting to show symptoms like chronic worrying or low self-worth, a psychotherapist may be best suited to help them.

For an approach to emotional regulation that’s integrated with other Executive Function skills, connect with a Beyond BookSmart Executive Functioning coach. Contact our team today for more information or to schedule an initial inquiry.

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