Emotional Regulation to the Rescue!

By Cary Zavala /

As parents, we admit we sometimes come to the “end of our rope.”  With the stressors of daily living, our children’s challenging behaviors can sometimes send us to a “10” quickly on the Feelings Thermometer!  If you missed this month’s Parent Network Series, our topic of the evening was Emotional Regulation, and we shared together some strategies that can help us “dial up” our positive emotions and “dial down” our negative emotions.  We learned that emotions can interfere with communication and relationships, and as parents it is important to have “tools in our toolbox” to help us regulate our emotions.afraid_rgb_p

Some key points:

  • We are not typically taught much about emotions…and managing emotions is a skill that can be learned.
  • There are family issues (and issues with children in particular) that can increase negative emotions (frustration, anger, worry, sadness/depression).
  • Letting negative emotions get in the way can make bad situations worse, curious_rgb_pespecially when another person is involved (“Bungee-Cord Conflict”).
  • There are a variety of tools that can help us manage our emotions.

Below are some examples that parents found particularly useful to help get back to a more calm and relaxed state*:

– Take a personal time-out (leave the scene, go to own room, take a walk, go outside)
– Watch TV, call a friend, take a hot shower
– Send child to time-out
– Take child to grandparent’s home for a little break


– Count under your breath
– Take deep breaths. We practiced how to do “belly breathing” to relax and one mom shared this super-fun Youtube clip for belly breathing:


– Recall a pleasant scene (oh hello baby llamas romping in the meadow under the big blue sky!)
– Listen to music, work a puzzle, clean, read, meditate


– Use humor
– Change the subject
– Offer choices, all of which are acceptable


– Tell yourself “I can manage this” and “Let it go”
– Plan ahead and prevent the problem
– Respond, don’t react


– Try to understand the other’s perspective (“stand in their shoes”)
– Actively listen

We also talked about how when we are stressed, anxious, or worried, we spend a lot of time in our heads.  We can train ourselves to focus on our bodies, to remain more grounded in the present and more able to manage our stress.  Parents received “Feel Better Bags” (thank you Great Start!) with the direction to use the items to practice mindfulness and using all the senses (visual, smell, sound, taste, touch, movement) to incorporate small moments of self-care and self-kindness into their day.  We can all do a little better job at making time to “fill our own pitchers” so we have something left to pour out into our children and families.

So think about what you already do that helps you relax and get calm when stress is beginning to rise…. and now perhaps consider one or two other strategies you could practice this week.  The bottom line is, emotions are going to come up and it can feel like we are on a roller coaster!  Put yourself back in the driver’s seat by knowing WE CAN regulate our emotions… which in turn will have a powerful and positive effect on the way we parent.

See you next month!

*Info taken from Implementation Sciences International, Inc.

Lenawee Great Start is presenting a series of Parent Education talks this year by Cary Zavala, a licensed professional counselor and a skilled parenting educator. The last talk was Thursday, October 23 on the topic of “Emotional Regulation to the Rescue!”  Don’t miss our next Parent Ed Talk on November 20 called “Build a Skill: Teaching Your Child How to Deal with Mad Feelings” (register here to attend!).

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