Emotions are vital to every human being. They inform us about what’s important. They warn us away from injury. They help us connect to parents and newborns and partners. However, sometimes emotions can get the better of us. When unregulated, feelings can snowball. We might overreact when feeling threatened. Children’s emotions might fray after years of stress brought about by learning disabilities, instability at home, or social isolation. Through no fault of their own, some of our mentees face a world where emotions might compel them to take risks, act out, or make poor choices.
The good news: adults and mentors can help children learn how to control their rich internal worlds. According to Dr. Adar Ben-Eliyahu, “through help and discussions, mentors provide an outside source for regulation” of emotions.
How to teach it:
- Situation selection – Opting out of a situation. Mentors can help a child choose settings that will be safe and healthy. Explicitly talk to your mentee about regulating emotions by keeping themselves in places with kind people, opportunities for growth, and a stable atmosphere.
- Situation modification – Sometimes mentees don’t have control over their environment. Instead, mentors can help a child find new ways to arrange their space, learn strategies for creating more positive relationships with others whom they cannot avoid, and solve problems that might defuse tension. This is a great skill to role-play based on the types of situations your mentee faces.
- Attentional deployment – Even within a certain situation or environment, a person can use a great range of mental attitudes. Listening to music or practicing meditation can distract one’s attention from a circumstance that might cause emotional upheaval.
- Reappraisal – This is like recontextualization. “Because emotion is tightly related to the appraisal one has of a situation, being able to reappraise a situation in a positive light can be especially helpful.” Role model looking for the bright aspects of unexpected or disappointing events.