Published on ADDitudeMag.com
Emotional Control Strategies for ADHD Kids
When ADHD kids practice controlling their emotions and impulsive outbursts, they will be healthier and happier at school and at home. Here's how parents can help.
by the editors of ADDitude
Controlling emotions, or emotional control, is the ability to manage emotions in order to
achieve goals, complete tasks, or direct behavior. Some kids with attention deficit
handle their emotions just fine, others don’t. Empathy works well with all
Encourage your child to forgive herself for mistakes. Emotional
upset is caused less by specific situations or events and more by what we tell
ourselves about that situation. For example, if your child is upset about
forgetting her homework, help her redirect that anger into planning ways she can
remember to bring it tomorrow.
Create a 5-Point Scale
Use a scale to help your child gauge how upset she is and help
her make a coping strategy for each step. The scale might look like this:
1. This doesn’t bother me at all.
2. I can talk myself down.
3. I can feel my heart speeding up...I’ll take 10
deep breaths to relax.
4. OK, this is getting to me, I probably need to “take 5” to
5. I'm about to have a meltdown -- I need to leave the situation
for a few minutes.
Write It Out
Work with your child to create a one-paragraph “social
story” that addresses a child’s problem situation -- getting in trouble on the
playground, the disappointment that comes with earning a bad grade, nervousness
when the student has to perform in front of a group -- and ends happily with a
Be sure to point out when your child shows good emotional
control and give praise where it’s due. You could say, “I saw how angry you
were, but you kept your cool. Nice job.”
Get Some Shuteye
Make sure your child gets enough sleep. Fatigue increases
problems with emotional control. Schedules and daily routines help children
better regulate their emotions, because they know what they have to handle and do.
Develop a Plan of Action
your child plan for problem situations by coming up with some coping strategies
together. For example, when a situation gets heated, your child can let you
know when she needs a break. Other self-soothing strategies include holding a
favorite stuffed animal (for a younger child) or listening to relaxing music on
an MP3 player (for an older child).
Craft a Hard-Times Board
Help your child create a “hard-times board.” List three
categories on it: 1. The triggers -- what makes your child upset; 2. The
can’t-do’s -- the behavior that’s not permitted at times of upset; and 3. The
can-do’s -- two or three coping strategies (draw a picture, take a five-minute
break, get a drink of water) to help her recover from being upset. Commend your
child when she uses one of the coping strategies from her board.
Lead by Example
Show your child how you cope with emotional upset. For
instance, explain how if you find yourself getting cranky and you’re afraid you
might say something mean, set the timer for three minutes and take a time-out
to calm down. Strategies that work for you may also work for your child.
Read All About It
Read books on emotional control with your child. What to Do When Your Temper Flares and What to Do When You Worry Too Much, both
by Dawn Huebner, describe coping strategies for taking control over unpleasant
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