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Self-regulation for teenagers

How often have you acted out of impulse because of an emotional situation you faced? What were the emotions you felt after the action – regret, guilt, shame, frustration? This is common for both teenagers and adults as they reflect on what they could have done instead. The key is self-regulation.

Self-regulation is a skill that allows people to recognize and manage their emotions, thoughts and behaviours when they find themselves faced with a challenging situation. It allows you to focus on the task or situation and create positive outcomes on your well-being, loving relationships and attitude in life.

Why is self-regulation important?

The world today contains so much pressure and stress, especially during these times of Covid, where many people constantly face change in their daily routines. Children and teenagers have had to quickly adapt to home schooling, change how they play/socialize and restrict who they can interact with.

These may be considered small changes to adults, but they can cause a lot of stress to younger minds. Furthermore, if they’ve not been able to regulate the emotions previously, they will experience more stress and will continue reacting in this pattern.

When a teenager is feeling regulated, they will be:

  • focused on the task/problem
  • an independent problem solver
  • more connected within (brain, heart and gut)
  • aware of their behaviour
  • able to cooperate and make lasting friendships

How to help teenagers learn and practice self-regulation

Parents are one of the most influential teachers in their child’s life, especially when it comes to self-regulation skills. The below are some practical ways you can help support the practice of self-regulation:

  • Help them identify and understand the different emotions they may feel
  • Encourage them to use resources like meditation or breathing exercises to help calm down big emotions
  • Involve them in problem-solving situations. For example, ‘We’ll be having maintenance come into the house most of the weekend, which may be noisy and disruptive. Let’s figure out what we can do during that time’.
  • Try to intentionally model self-regulation to them. This can be through teaching them how to wait; problem-solve; calm down and express emotions.

Supporting your teenager develop a stronger sense of self-awareness and encouraging the practice of self-regulation can be a significant factor in helping them experience success in life.