115+ Strategies for Emotional Regulation

115+ Emotional Regulation Strategies and Activities for Kids – Toddler-hood to Teenagers

Emotional Dysregulation

Emotional dysregulation means that an emotional response does not fall within the conventionally accepted range of emotive responses. In other words, your kid is literally losing their S*&# because you gave them the wrong pair of socks today.

When our kids are not well regulated, they start to “act out”, and you see “behaviors”. Basically, they just don’t have the skills to manage their emotions on their own.

Actually, there’s a good chance that they don’t even know what the emotion they’re feeling is.  You can’t cope with something that you can’t even label or understand the cause of.

But good news! You can teach self-regulation skills. I’m going to share a ton of strategies with you.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links.

Types of Emotional Regulation

There’s actually two types of emotional regulation. There are mutual regulation and self-regulation.

Mutual regulation means your child needs YOU to help them regulate their emotions. When they’re upset you need to soothe them, help them calm down. They can not use healthy coping strategies on their own.

Most kids with autism are dependant upon mutual regulation some, if not all, the time. Does your child come to you when they need help regulating? Or, do you need to recognize behavioral cues and be proactive?

Self-regulation means your child can calm down and cope with their emotions all on their own. They can walk away from a frustrating situation. They can take deep breaths to calm down and return to an activity.

They can even recover from a meltdown on their own.

There’s a developmental trajectory here and milestones your kiddo will meet as their self-regulation skills develop.

First will be mutual regulation, with you responding to their cues. Next, they’ll initiate the mutual regulation. Then, some self-regulation skills emerge with you modeling the right strategies. Over time as skills develop your child will start being able to recover from meltdowns sooner, and they will be less intense.

Choosing Strategies that Work for You

Figure out where your child currently sits on that developmental trajectory.

You need to know this when you’re picking what strategies are going to work best for you. There are actually three things you need to consider when you’re deciding what strategies to teach and use.

Developmentally Appropriate

First of all, choose strategies that are appropriate for your child’s current level of ability. All kids are unique with their own strengths and weaknesses and unique emotional regulation needs.


You need to choose strategies that are functional. What I mean by this is – your kid needs to be able to use them when they need them during their regular day-to-day routine.

Where does your child spend most of their time? Home, school, the playground? When choosing coping strategies think – will they be able to practice those strategies in these environments when they need to?

Align with Family Values

This one is more so for care providers and educators. If you’re teaching or caring for a child with autism or ADHD, you need to make sure that any strategies you teach that child are consistent with the family’s priorities and values.

Parents and educators must work as a team at all times to provide consistency. Having constant communication and an open line to sharing information is the key to success.

Special Contexts

These are just a few other things to think about as you choose coping strategies that will encourage healthy self-regulation skills for your child.

These are in no particular order but are here to make you think about how your child’s emotional regulation is affected by different scenarios. How is your child affected by the following:

  • Group sizes? Large or small
  • New environment vs familiar environment?
  • Familiar caregiver vs unfamiliar caregiver?
  • When feeling sick or tired?
  • When feeling hungry?
  • Can they transition well? Think – how would your child react if they were engaged in a fun gross motor activity and suddenly had to stop to sit in their high chair for a snack?

Keeping in mind how these different contexts can affect your kiddo, you may choose different strategies and supports, depending on the situation.

Emotional Regulation Strategies

Mutual Regulation Strategies

15 Self Regulation Strategies for Toddles to Teenagers | Teaching Healthy Emotional Regulation | Self-Regulation for Children with Autism and ADHD - #ADHDKids #SelfRegulationIdeas #EmotionalRegulation #AutismKids
  1. Play mindfulness games (check out these activity cards)
  2. Model calm behavior
  3. Model the self-regulation strategies you want to teach
  4. Set up opportunities for success
  5. Use more positive reinforcement
  6. Have a consistent daily routine
  7. Have a bedtime routine
  8. Offer a break
  9. Offer choices
  10. Have a break box available
  11. Remove triggers
  12. Have a visual schedule
  13. Offer a snack
  14. Offer a drink
  15. Do a movement break
  16. Read a story
  17. Give a hug
  18. Match their language
  19. Get on their level, see the situation from their shoes
  20. Use these sensory diet cards together
  21. Use a timer
  22. Use first-then statements
  23. Give a compliment
  24. Hold their hand
  25. Offer a sensory item like a weighted lap pad, or a resistance tunnel
  26. Diffuse calming essential oils
  27. Just ask “What would help you right now?”
  28. Talk about something they like
  29. Take them for a walk
  30. Offer solutions
  31. Remove the audience
  32. Ask them to draw you a picture
  33. Have a reward system for positive behavior
  34. Squish them – get your child to lay on the floor and squish them by rolling an exercise ball over them
  35. Use a massager
  36. Use a therapy brush
  37. Talk about feelings and size of the problem
  38. Use the feelings check-in sheet
  39. Say “I understand how you feel”
  40. Create some sensory bins
  41. Get them to blow pom poms around the table or through a maze with a straw
  42. Create a social story
  43. Talk about upcoming transitions ahead of time
  44. Rock them calmly
  45. Wrap them in a weighted blanket
  46. Turn on the music and have an impromptu dance party
  47. Ask them to help you with something they’re good at
  48. Offer to do the task together
  49. Stop talking or making demands
  50. Use physical reinforcers like stickers or candy

Self-Regulation Strategies

15 Self Regulation Strategies for Toddles to Teenagers | Teaching Healthy Emotional Regulation | Self-Regulation for Children with Autism and ADHD - #ADHDKids #SelfRegulationIdeas #EmotionalRegulation #AutismKids
  1. Take deep breaths
  2. Think of something that makes you laugh
  3. Go for a walk
  4. Slowly count backward from 10
  5. Squeeze a stress ball as hard as you can
  6. Swing on the swings
  7. Draw a picture of something that makes you happy
  8. Write a letter
  9. Listen to music
  10. Play with play-doh
  11. Talk to a grown up
  12. Talk to a friend
  13. Color a picture
  14. Use positive self-talk
  15. Make a list of things that you love
  16. Close your eyes and think about your favorite place
  17. Read a book
  18. Rip up paper
  19. Scream into a pillow
  20. Do some yoga
  21. Ask for a hug
  22. Hug your favorite stuffed animal
  23. Spend time with a pet
  24. Watch funny videos
  25. Identify your emotions
  26. Write your feelings down
  27. Tell someone how you’re feeling
  28. Ask for help
  29. Hang upside down
  30. Chew a piece of gum
  31. Build with Lego
  32. Bounce on a therapy ball
  33. Do 10 jumping jacks
  34. Snuggle with your favorite blanket
  35. Blow bubbles
  36. Make funny faces in the mirror
  37. Pop bubble wrap
  38. Sing your favorite song
  39. Dance
  40. Look through a photo album
  41. Make jewelry with beads and pipe cleaner
  42. Watch a calm down bottle
  43. Watch a lava lamp
  44. Doodle
  45. Use a fidget toy
  46. Go outside
  47. Turn off the lights and look at something that glows in the dark
  48. Get some sleep
  49. Have a healthy snack
  50. Daydream about the perfect day
  51. Help someone else
  52. Watch the clouds
  53. Jump on a trampoline
  54. Play with a hula hoop
  55. Write a love letter to yourself
  56. Punch your pillow
  57. Play with a Rubik’s cube
  58. Keep a comforting object with you
  59. Use a scratch art doodle pad
  60. Shake up a snow globe and watch it settle
  61. Look through a kaleidoscope
  62. Draw with an etch-a-sketch
  63. Look at photos of family
  64. Keep a gratitude journal
  65. Watch your favorite movie

Need More?

Are you looking for more help in managing meltdowns? You can click here for an in-depth guide to preventing meltdowns and outbursts.

The information focuses on proactive approaches that prevent behaviors from escalating. There is tons of evidence-based strategies and step by step instructions for actually using and teaching these strategies.

115 Self Regulation Strategies for Toddles to Teenagers | Teaching Healthy Emotional Regulation | Self-Regulation for Children with Autism and ADHD - #ADHDKids #SelfRegulationIdeas #EmotionalRegulation #AutismKids

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