Monday, November 28, 2011

Emotion Regulation

As a parent a lot of time is spent teaching and training. One vital area is that of emotions, firstly interpretation of emotions then slowly but surely regulation of those said emotions. What becomes confusing is when you introduce the complexity of Sensory Processing Issues which cloud the interpretation, "for example, avoidance of sensory stimulation may be interpreted as fear, and the child may be allowed to avoid many situations to reduce his or her distress. Seeking of sensory stimulation may be misread as out-of-control behaviour, and the child may be punished (Miller, Robinson and Moulton, 2004, p 250). As you can imagine any parent can be mislead when trying to understand their child and as a consequence not understand the true cause behind their behaviour.

Cole, Michel, and Teti in Miller, Robinson and Moulton, (2004, p 251) describe emotional regulation as "the ability to respond to the on-going demands of the experience with a range of emotions in a manner that is socially tolerable and sufficiently flexible to permit spontaneous reactions as needed." Loosely translated emotion regulation is the skill of responding to life within the socially acceptable boundaries that exist within our cultures. What is concerning is that those with Sensory issues are reported to have issues with emotion regulation, which makes it difficult for the person to exist and function within society easily. This should catch the attention of any parent.

Cole inMiller, Robinson and Moulton, (2004, p 251) then discusses two major types of emotion dysregulation: "under-regulation and over-regulation.

Under-regulated behaviours tend to be overly expressive or extreme and required others to assist the child to maintain control, by soothing or limiting the child's exposure to events that give rise to strong emotions.

Over-regulated emotions are held in tightly, as in the freezing response, and the child may need assistance from others to express what they experience."

These types of dysregulation make it extremely difficult for a child or adult for that matter to respond to the daily demands of life, school work. Any therapy that can be given to address the issues of emotion regulation will have a meaningful and most profound impact on the immediate day to day functioning, and also will have a deciding influence on the capacity or lack of capacity for that child in their future.

To learn is to understand, to gain knowledge and knowledge especially to us is power or more importantly empowerment. If we are unaware or unable to understand the issues our children face we can parent inappropriately (note I don't say wrongly, incorrectly). If we can understand our children, then we can embrace them and adjust our parenting styles and goals to suit.

For further reading, please check out the original article that I read that I have quoted from Sensory Modulation Dysfunction: Identification in Early Childhood.

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