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Tips for Parents: Managing Emotions in Hard Times and All of the Time

Highlights from Expert Series

The following article shares highlights and insights from one of our Expert Series events, which are exclusive for Young Scholars and their parents.

Research and common sense consistently show that understanding our emotions and managing them is one of the most important abilities any person needs for personal well-being and being able to positively function in a community. However, many of us were not explicitly taught emotional regulation skills and often feel like we are at the mercy of the emotions swirling throughout our homes and community. Educating ourselves not only supports our own mental and emotional health but empowers us to be the adults young people need in their lives. Having a shared vocabulary around emotions is essential to young people’s development and enhances their ability to self-regulate, manage frustration, and practice effective coping strategies. It is also essential to creating healthy, emotionally agile communities and families.

Topics covered in the session were, emotional granularity, SEAL, and self compassion. Emotional granularity is the ability to name and recognize all of our emotions. Becoming better at naming our emotions in order to understand them can in turn help regulate them.  A communication tool with the acronym of SEAL was shared and explained to provide concrete strategies of how to help your child when emotionally dysregulated. Self compassion was the final take away of this session. Self compassion is choosing to turn towards your suffering with kindness and empathy. Tips of how to practice self compassion and the benefits were shared with participants.

Tips for Regulating Emotions

SEAL is an effective communications model that can help adults work on their own emotions and feelings as they support their child and their emotional dysregulation.

Stop – Identify what is your role in this moment, consider these questions:

  • What do they need right now?
    • Space, time, contact etc.
  • What can I do to help?
    • Leave them alone/give space, be comfortable letting them be upset as long as they are safe
    • Provide what they need based on previous experience and conversation

Explain – Ask them to explain what happened that made their emotions take over.

  • You might say,
    • “Saying I don’t know is OK but try to think about when you first felt yourself getting angry/sad/frustrated.”
  • Explain your feelings during this time as well and share them,
    • “I get scared/sad when you…”, “I feel helpless because…”, “I care about you and want to help”

Affirm and Acknowledge

  • Spend time affirming their feelings and acknowledge their emotions.
  • Affirm that their feelings are real and they are not permanent
  • Acknowledge that sometimes when they are emotionally dysregulated, they will have a hard time managing their own emotions. That is true for most people. Managing emotions when dysregulated is something that people have to learn and practice.


  • Try to create (lock down) some concrete steps to follow when your child is emotionally dysregulated.
    • “What can we agree on to both TRY to do in these situations?”
    • “I can step away for a minute and let you calm down”
    • “I won’t try to fix the situation for you, but I will be close by to keep you safe and support you.”
    • Agree to try them for a certain amount of time and if they don’t work, revisit.

Once you all have figured out a few steps that work, even just the STOP, how can you work with your child’s school to implement some of this plan? What other adults need to know about this process?

This is a process- practice not perfection etc. This is a starting point, it should evolve as your kid does.

Self Compassion is another cornerstone piece that helps with emotional regulation.

  • How to practice self compassion:
    • Choose self kindness
    • Remember common humanity
    • Practice mindfulness
  • Benefits of this practice:
    • Emotional resilience
    • Avoids depending on others for approval
    • Personal Growth

Authored by: Carey Goldstein
Bio: Carey Goldstein worked as both a middle and upper school counselor for 15 years. She used the Owning Up Curriculum in her work with students in both divisions ever since she was introduced to the curriculum in 2010. Carey joined the Cultures of Dignity team as the Director of Owning Up Programs in 2018 after working with the team over the years on different consulting projects as well as contributing to the content of the second edition of Owning Up. Her extensive experience brings a teacher to teacher connection to the curriculum that helps schools make the most of the Owning Up Curriculum and Owning Up Training in the classroom. Carey has taken her classroom and counseling experience to Arusha, Tanzania as a part of a teacher exchange program and presented on social-emotional learning in Chengdu, China. She has presented at both the Kentucky Association of Independent Schools and the Independent School Association of the Central States conferences on how to integrate character education in grades K-12. Her love of working with kids and helping them navigate growing up with a better understanding of the world they live in is what attracted her to work with the Cultures of Dignity team. She lives in Louisville, KY with her husband and two teenage daughters.


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