SO THEY CAN FEEL MORE IN CONTROL OF THEIR EMOTIONS AND GAIN CONFIDENCE.
By Brooklyn Storme
Here at the practice we receive a high number of referrals from doctors and paediatricians seeking our help in supporting children with emotional, and also behavioural, regulation. Sometimes children and parents don’t know what to expect when coming along to a session so I thought now might be a good time to give you that information.
When you attend counselling for the first time, we will often encourage parents to be present for part of and, sometimes, for all of the initial session. This can help to settle children that might be otherwise nervous or anxious about coming along. It’s helpful for your counsellor to meet you both and to observe how you interact with each other. During that first meeting, we will speak about the reason for referral, provide information about counselling, explain the counselling process, and make a plan to support your child in achieving their goal.
Often from there, the counsellor will create a plan that he or she can use to help support your child in addressing their concerns. In subsequent sessions, it is common practice for parents to attend the first few minutes of the session to provide feedback to the therapist about their child’s feelings or behaviour and to update the counsellor on any progress that their child may have made. Often, parents will then leave the session and be invited back in the closing minutes of the session this time for the therapist to update the parent on the achievements made in the session, to provide education to parents on new tools and strategies that they have shared with the child and to provide guidance on what to do at home before the next appointment.
Counsellors also often use a screening tool or a short assessment with the child. We do this because it provides us with information about what might be happening for your little one and gives us insights into their functioning at school, home and with their friends. Also, therapists will provide the child with a workbook or display book where they can keep their homework, information sheets, tools and strategies.
Emotional regulation is a big term because it encompasses so many different things. If your GP or Paediatrician writes ‘emotional regulation’ on the referral, you can ask them to explain what they mean so that you have clarity over their concerns and recommendations. At its most basic form though, emotional regulation simply means the capacity and propensity of the child (in this case) to adequately and effectively manage their feelings across different situations and in ways that are appropriate or expected for their age.
If your child has difficulty with managing mood, there are a number of tools and techniques that you can use to help them at home. One way is to use Kimochi faces and these are readily available online and in most bookstores. They are felt balls about the size of a golf ball, soft, and have different expressions to indicate different emotions. Helping your child recognise what feeling goes with what facial expression can be helpful, especially for children that struggle to understand these things.
There is also Calm Down Yoga and again, there are a number of places on the Peninsula that offer yoga for children. The children learn a range of breathing techniques and with practice, become more proficient at learning about the relationship between their breath and how they feel in their body. These new learnings can support your child in managing their mood by empowering them to calm themselves down before reacting to triggers in the world around them.
In the classroom, your child might find it helpful to have a key ring with a collection of laminated cards, each one showing a different emotion ie a happy face, an angry face. They can use this card to show peers and educators how they are feeling. This type of communication is a powerful way for children to feel that they have been seen and heard and allows for educators to accommodate the mood of the child and intervene accordingly.
It’s important to note that if you feel that your child struggles to express and receive emotional content, it’s a good idea to seek advice from a trusted health professional. Sometimes, difficulty regulating emotion can be an indicator of other conditions and so it’s recommended that you speak with your Paediatrician or Psychologist if you have any concerns.
Dr. Brooklyn Storme, PhD is the Director and head psychologist at All Psyched Up, a mindfulness-based allied health practice on the Mornington Peninsula. When she’s not at work, she’s usually teaching Gabe new tricks or spiking up his purple Mohawk.
Ph: +61 (03) 87975611