Reacting vs. Responding

Reacting and responding, two words that sound similar, but are very different when it comes to feelings and the way we express them.  Understanding the difference can be an extremely helpful skill for both parents and children.

When a stressful or frustrating event occurs, we have two choices:

  1. We can impulsively react to the situation OR
  2. We can allow ourselves time to process and think about the best response.

Emotional regulation is a skill that can oftentimes be challenging for children and teens due to their undeveloped prefrontal cortex.

This is why I have put together some helpful tips for parents to utilize to help support their children through this journey:

  • Acknowledge their feelings. By calling attention to their feelings, it will help them continue to label their feelings and put language to what they are experiencing. 
  • Encourage exercises such as deep breathing.
  • Guide them to a safe space where they can regulate and relax.
  • Model for your child a more appropriate response. For example, when we are angry, we can scream into our pillow instead of hitting someone.

This takes practice, but just like with anything the more you practice, the easier it will become!

Written by: Amberly Hamilton