Emotion Regulation: Strategies for Children and Adolescents Experiencing Irritability and Difficulties Managing Their Emotions

Presenter: Julie Ryan, Ph.D.
Download this webinar’s corresponding slides here.
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Dr. Ryan reviewed emotion regulation strategies for children and adolescents. She gave us tools to use in validating the persons feelings without agreeing with their behaviors as well as understanding that feelings can also cause physical reactions. Dr. Ryan also reviewed PLEASE skills.


  1. Dr.Ryan says:

    ?: I was wondering if you would be able to explain the difference between “you are not our feelings” and trusting your instincts. Also, it seems like opposing concepts when you said that you are not your emotions and that you need to love your emotions because they are a part of you. If you could help me deliniate these concepts it would be much appreciated.

    Your question touches on the core of dialectics in the Dialectical Behavior Therapy skills I was discussing. Dialectics is a philosophical stance which involves several assumptions:
    a. every thing is connected, b. change is constant and inevitable, and c. opposites can be be true at the same time and integrated together are a closer approximation of the truth-and the truth is never a constant it is always changing and evolving.

    Your question touches upon the last tenet of Dialectics, it is true that our emotions are a part of us AND we are not (only) our emotions. Therefore we should take into consideration the information our emotions give us, and appreciate the intensity of our emotions, and at the same time not allow our actions to be solely governed by our emotions.

    So when it comes to “trusting our instincts” we should appreciate the information our emotions or “our gut” gives us and at the same time take a step back and put this information into a larger picture, incorporating what we know from past experiences and our knowledge of the present moment, along with the valuable information we get from our emotions or instinct.

    I hope that helps to clarify your questions.

  2. Dr.Ryan says:

    ?: Kara11102: How do you help an elementary student who is excessively whiny? How can you help them to be more aware of this behavior and work on changing it?

    Not having assessed this child myself I can’t be sure why the child is “whiny” and therefore can only answer in general. My first question would be regarding why the child whines, and when? After understanding the reason for the behavior, (e.g. to seek attention, to communicate a feeling) I would see if there was something maintaining the behavior. If the child wants attention, does he/she get more attention when whining? If this is the case, positive attention should be given to the child when he/she is not whining. Examples of positive attention can be a smile, a hug, a high five, a genuine comment such as “I can tell you’re working really hard on your home work and not complaining, I’m proud of you”

    Mindfulness skills may help the child to become more aware of his/her behavior, however asking the child to change their behavior without understanding and validating why s/he does whine, may make the child resistant to this change (i.e. feel misunderstood).

  3. Dr.Ryan says:

    ?janvanpatten: Are the handouts you used available for purchase?

    Reply to janvanpatten
    Unfortunately these worksheets are not yet available for purchase.

    The adult worksheets are available for purchase through Guilford Press, however they may not be very helpful for children.
    Linehan, M. M. (1993b). Skills Training Manual for Treating Borderline Personality Disorder. New York:
    Guilford Press.

    The book is more helpful for children.
    Parenting a Child Who Has Intense Emotions: Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills to Help Your Child Regulate Emotional Outbursts and Aggressive Behaviors
    Pat Harvey LCSW-C, Jeanine Penzo LICSW

    Hopefully we’ll have our worksheets published and available for distribution in the next year or so.

  4. Dr.Ryan says:

    ?: What role does the educator play in this process?

    Educators in a mainstream classroom setting can help children and adolescents develop their emotional knowledge by integrating emotion education into their lessons. When working with specific children experiencing difficulties with emotion regulation, educators can collaborate with the parents in a non-judgmental way to put a behavioral plan into place at school and at home. This might be through the earning of points for using coping skills appropriately throughout the day, which can be exchanged for privileges or prizes (this can even work with teens).

    Educators may also play a very important role in recommending further assessment or treatment. A teacher may recommend that the child having difficulties be assessed for learning disabilities that may have been overlooked. A teacher may recommend that the child speak to a counselor to develop better coping skills.

  5. Dr.Ryan says:

    “Q: What age are the youngest children you see for CBT or DBT?
    Do you think it is possible to teach young children to control the anger urges? I mean 5-6 year olds. For my daughter, fear seems to be the root of her “”anger actions””. Is this the case with many children?”

    Yes, CBT has been shown to be helpful to children in this age group, however the younger the child the more parent involvement is needed. Often when children are 5-6 we work with the parents teaching them the skills so they can be their child’s coach on a day to day basis. One hour a week with a parent goes much further than one hour with a 5 year old- so therapy at this age should intensively involve the parents. And often “angry” outbursts in younger children are expressions of other emotions, like anxiety or sadness.