Abbotts College, Advice Column, Assisted Learning, Education, Recently

Empowering children : Managing emotional challenges in the classroom

  • The Bridge Assisted Learning School
  • Category Abbotts College, Advice Column, Assisted Learning, Education, Recently

In the ever-evolving field of education, meeting the diverse needs of children extends beyond conventional teaching approaches. A critical factor that has garnered attention is the comprehension of emotional dysregulation and its significant influence within the classroom setting. As educators and parents endeavour to cultivate the optimal learning environment, acknowledging and tackling emotional dysregulation is increasingly recognised as a pivotal component in nurturing academic achievement, according to an education expert.

“Emotional dysregulation refers to difficulties in managing and expressing emotions appropriately. For some children, navigating the complex web of feelings can be overwhelming, leading to challenges in focusing, self-control, and interpersonal relationships. Recognising the signs of emotional dysregulation is crucial for creating a supportive environment that promotes both emotional and academic growth,” says Renie Sutherland, Principal at The Bridge Assisted Learning School Morningside, which supports students facing challenges unrelated to cognitive ability. The Bridge is a brand of ADvTECH, Africa’s largest private education provider.

Sutherland says the repercussions of emotional dysregulation in the classroom can be far-reaching.

“Children grappling with emotional dysregulation may find it challenging to concentrate on academic tasks, exhibit disruptive behavior, or struggle to engage in collaborative activities. These challenges can hinder not only their individual learning but also the overall classroom dynamic.”

Sutherland says recognising emotional dysregulation can sometimes be challenging, but that there are some general signs that may indicate emotional dysregulation:

  • Intense Emotional Reactions: Children with emotional dysregulation may experience emotions more intensely than their peers. This can manifest as extreme anger, sadness, anxiety, or frustration that seems disproportionate to the situation.
  • Quick Mood Shifts: Abrupt and unpredictable changes in mood can be indicative of emotional dysregulation. A child may go from being calm to extremely upset or agitated without an apparent trigger.
  • Difficulty Recovering from Upsets: Children struggling with emotional dysregulation may find it challenging to calm down after becoming upset. Their emotional state might persist for an extended period, making it difficult for them to return to a baseline mood.
  • Impulsive Behavior: Acting on impulses without considering the consequences is a common trait associated with emotional dysregulation. This may include impulsive decisions, outbursts, or even physical aggression.
  • Difficulty with Transitions: Changes in routine or unexpected transitions can be particularly challenging for those with emotional dysregulation. They may struggle to adapt to new situations, leading to increased stress and emotional upheaval.
  • Poor Frustration Tolerance: Children with emotional dysregulation may have a low threshold for frustration. Minor setbacks or challenges that others may handle with ease can lead to intense emotional reactions.
  • Social Difficulties: Emotional dysregulation can impact interpersonal relationships. Children may struggle with making and maintaining friendships due to difficulties in understanding and responding appropriately to social cues.
  • Physical Symptoms: Emotional dysregulation can manifest physically. Children may experience headaches, stomachaches, muscle tension, or other physical symptoms in response to emotional distress.
  • Sleep Disturbances: Disruptions in sleep patterns, such as difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, can be associated with emotional dysregulation. Emotional challenges may interfere with the ability to relax and unwind before bedtime.
  • Difficulty Identifying Emotions: Some children with emotional dysregulation may have difficulty recognizing and labeling their own emotions. This lack of emotional awareness can contribute to challenges in effectively regulating their feelings.

“While the above could be indicators of emotional dysregulation, they should serve as a starting point for investigation, not a diagnostic checklist, as every individual is unique,” says Sutherland.

“If a parent has cause for concern, they should seek professional help from a qualified professional or educational experts to help guide them and their child. It is crucial to approach emotional dysregulation with sensitivity and avoid making assumptions,” she says.

Generally, the approach to supporting children dealing with dysregulation will include building emotional awareness, developing structured routines, teaching coping skills, engaging in collaborative problem solving, and building and maintaining healthy boundaries.

It may also become necessary to find a school that understands emotional dysregulation and is paramount for the holistic development and well-being of children, which is able to assist children on their journey.

“The ability of a school to recognise and address emotional challenges directly correlates with a child’s academic success and overall mental health. A school that prioritises emotional well-being fosters classroom environments tailored to promote resilience, creating a supportive space where children feel understood and validated,” says Sutherland.

“Such environments will be characterised by teachers who are trained to recognize signs of emotional dysregulation and implement strategies that nurture resilience. By emphasizing emotional intelligence alongside academic achievement, these schools equip children with essential life skills, enabling them to navigate challenges with resilience and adaptability.

“Ultimately, choosing a school that values and incorporates emotional well-being into its educational philosophy, lays the foundation for children to thrive academically, emotionally, and socially, setting them on a path towards long-term success.”

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