Are you looking for strategies and tips for teaching self regulation? Do your students need to work on understanding their own emotions and feelings?
Teaching my students all about their emotions is one of my favorite things to do. It’s not only a life skill – but it’s an important one if your students are working understanding themselves, their behaviors, and other people better. In my opinion, it’s one of the foundations of self-regulation.
One of my strategies for self regulation is to make sure that my students have the background knowledge about their own emotions. So many of my students struggled understanding their own emotions until we built a foundation of two critical skills:
1 – Increasing awareness of the sensations and feelings in their body
2 – Putting words to their thoughts
Only after targeting those foundational skills did my students begin the process of connecting the dots to understanding their own sensations and feelings. From there, we were better able to target other skills that rely on emotional awareness including self-advocacy and self-regulation skills.
These tools will likely be helpful for the majority of your elementary, middle, or high school caseload, however here’s some examples of students that have benefitted significantly from this type of work:
- A student that had meltdowns or other behaviors in the classroom. When asked about them, they stated they couldn’t tell the meltdowns were coming, they couldn’t identify how they were feeling ahead of time, and they stated they don’t feel emotions like everyone else.
- A student who was working on self-advocacy, but struggled to know how they were feeling or what type of help to ask for when self-advocating.
- A student who described their emotions in only 1-2 ways every day (bored, fine). They struggled to recognize other emotional states in themselves.
Of course, there are many other tools that our students would benefit from learning about in regards to emotional understanding and self-regulation. But, I strongly believe that understanding your sensations, thoughts, and feelings is the absolute foundation that all other skills are built on top of.
AWARENESS always comes before change.
How to work on self regulation
Here’s my top 3 favorite ways to work on this skill with my students:
1- Demystify emotions! Emotions are just sensations in our body that we give a name to (like “brave” or “worried” or “angry”). Directly teach your students that their bodily sensations tell them how they feel.
2- Do consistent check-ins! Have your students do a “brain scan” and a “feelings finder”. What are they thinking? What are they feeling? Why? Record this information in a chart! Later, they can go back and notice any patterns!
3- Last, when students master the steps above, I love to tie feelings into their thoughts. Did you know that your thoughts create your feelings? Once your students are able to identify thoughts they have related to specific feelings, they can use those thoughts as mantras or affirmations, or helpful, positive self-talk!
For example, one of my students noticed that when they feel brave, they’re often thinking “I can do this!”. Now that they know this about themselves, when they want to feel brave, they can practice the thought “I can do this!!”.
Self regulation resources
To work on this important work with your students, I’d highly recommend checking out my Emotional Awareness Activities resource.
This resource is all about teaching self-awareness… how to check in with yourself, notice how your body is feeling, and notice what your brain is thinking.
With that information, you are so much more prepared to advocate for yourself or make choices that benefit you (like taking a break, having a snack, or asking for help).
If you have any questions about this resource at all, don’t hesitate to reach out!
I hope this gave you some new ideas for actually teaching how to understand emotions to your students!
Stay amazing! You’re doing an amazing job.