Social Emotional Self-Regulation

Different situations require us to behave in a different manner, because they impose different expectations and rules. Consider turn taking as an example. We wait our turn to buy our groceries, at the bank, when we put our hand up in class, and even driving (e.g., at stop signs). It is often difficult to do this when our urges and impulses run contrary to what we should do (e.g., we are in a rush, so we want to jump the queue). Even conversations require turn taking, but often in a more complex way (e.g., they can follow tangents may not return to the original subject of conversation). Successful conversations therefore require not only taking turns, but careful listening to others’ words and meanings, and then appropriate responses to those words. In cases of disagreement, often we must strive to understand the perspective of others, and then work together to find a solution or compromise. And in the end, we will not always get our way. Children will often need to manage disappointment and other strong emotions to achieve their aims, and this is not always easy. Even harder, it takes a difficult mental shift to consider how others might feel and what we might do to help them. As with nearly everything, practice makes perfect. The activities that follow aim to engage, challenge and extend these abilities.

These activities focus on social and emotional self-regulation – the ability to control our emotional reactions and social interactions. These abilities contribute to building positive relationships, dealing with the challenges and frustrations of life, as well as promoting emotional wellbeing. The skills and abilities that the activities in this section try to promote include, but are not limited to:

  • Following established social conventions
  • Being helpful, respectful and supportive
  • Exerting control over emotional reactions, and being able to recover from being upset
  • Willingness to take measured and appropriate risks (e.g., willing to try new 'tricky' activity, where success is not guaranteed)
Each activity provides children with opportunities to ‘exercise’ their self-regulation skills in their normal day. We have specifically aimed to present activities that are fun, familiar and playful so you can play them again and again. Many more activities are possible; consider these as a starting point from which to develop new activities that similarly engage and challenge children’s emerging self-regulation abilities.