Regulating Emotion for Children with ADHD
Updated: Sep 1, 2021
There are several treatments available for ADHD. Perhaps the most well-known is medication, and this is for good reason: Medications used for ADHD are among the best researched for any disorder. Often, medication assists with those difficulties with inattention and hyperactivity.
However, children who have trouble regulating their attention and behaviour may also have difficulty regulating their emotions. Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) is a well-researched approach that emphasises emotional regulation skills as a means of helping individuals live a life worth living, despite their difficulties. Below are a few of the key concepts.
Wise mind is valuable for choosing a way to behave. It is a combination of two things:
Our emotional mind, which is guided by the way we feel; and,
Our reasonable mind, which is guided by the way we think: facts, logic, and reason.
Some children allow emotion mind to control their behaviour: Emotions go from 0-100 very quickly, and they respond to their emotions with actions that they later regret or get in trouble for. Using wise mind means putting the information from emotion mind and reasonable mind together to find the most effective course of action. We can access wise mind by taking a moment to observe our thoughts and feelings then choosing an action that suits our goals. DBT therapists can teach you many ways to help pay attention thoughts and feelings in the moment (often described as “mindfulness” skills).
Checking the Facts
The way we think about a situation can strongly influence our response. Our emotional mind is quick to jump to conclusions; sometimes we need to slow down and check the facts before we proceed. A therapist can help us identify whether we are thinking in extremes (black-and-white or all-or-nothing thinking), or assuming the worst will happen (catastrophising). Sometimes, reviewing the facts of a situation for a moment can help us decide whether our emotion really fits the facts.
If we realise that our emotion doesn’t fit the facts of a situation (e.g., we are angry at someone who didn’t mean to hurt us), we can act the opposite of what that emotion is urging us to do. For example, we can gently avoid that person that hurt us, rather than attacking them. This is a skill that takes some time to learn but can be very effective in helping us cope with emotions, especially when acting on them would be destructive or counterproductive.
There are many more skills within DBT that are very useful for children with ADHD, as well as other behavioural issues. Don’t hesitate to contact us at Breakthrough Psychology Practice if you think DBT would suit you or your child’s needs.
David is passionate about supporting clients who are struggling with regulating their emotions or behaviour. Please feel free to call to make an appointment with David.
Clinical Psychology Registrar
Breakthrough Psychology Practice