5 Simple Ways to Help Children Build Emotional Regulation

By Elizabeth Ernest, LMSW, PLMFT

April is National Autism Awareness month. Autism is a developmental disability that impacts an estimated one in 58 children, and it is not caused by poor parenting, trauma, abuse, or neglect. 

I am a certified child therapist in AutPlay, a play therapy for children with autism. I love using AutPlay with clients because of how hands-on it is and how it helps children learn with fun and play. AutPlay focuses on providing skills to help with the following:

  • Emotion regulation 
  • Social skills
  • Sensory challenges
  • Executive functioning skills
  • Self esteem
  • Parent/child relationship struggles 

AutPlay isn’t just for children with autism. It can also be used with children ages 3-18 with Attention Deficit Disorder, social anxiety, sensory differences, developmental and physical difficulties. Children without these diagnoses can struggle with emotion regulation skills, and AutPlay focuses on building these skills. A lot of my clients’ parents ask me, “how can I help my kid at home with emotional regulation?” These are a few steps parents can take at home to help their kids become more comfortable with their emotions.

5 Simple Ways to Help Children Build Emotional Regulation

  1. Read books that discuss emotions (many can be found at your local library)
  2. Helping a child identify emotions (for example, when they throw a toy, you can tell them, “you seem mad right now!”)
  3. Identify emotions of their favorite characters in TV shows or movies 
  4. Make a homemade fidget toy out of clay and a balloon ( you can put clay or playdough inside a deflated balloon, then tie up the balloon) 
  5. Talking about your own emotions with your child

These are just a few ideas I often suggest to parents who are wanting to help their kids with emotional regulation. You’ll see that they are quite simple– it’s mostly about getting comfortable talking about emotions! The AutPlay website also has many wonderful resources.

If you are interested in boosting your child’s social skills through fun and play,The Center for Mindfulness & CBT will be running a Lego® Social Skills Summer Camp in June. This camp will focus on helping children practice social skills such as interacting with others, taking turns, verbal and nonverbal communication, and much more. 

This camp will be Monday through Thursday from 9-11AM on the following dates:

Ages 5-7 June 6th-9th 

Ages 8-12 June 13th-16th 

Ages 13-16 June 20th-24th 

The camp schedule will be:

8:55AM check in 

9:00 rules and introducing selves/ asking each other questions about their previous day

9:15 social skills lesson with handouts, role plays, and other activities 

9:50 snack 

10:00 Lego building with specific roles 

10:45 free play with Legos

10:55 clean up

11:00 parent pick up 

Camp will cost $375

EARLY BIRD RATE! Sign up before May 16th for $25 off

If you are interested in the Lego® Social Skills Summer Camp or have questions about Autplay, please contact Elizabeth Ernest at elizabeth@mindfulstl.com.

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It's more important than ever to take care of your mental health, so all of our therapists are doing Telehealth and many have immediate openings for new clients.