What if you could reduce your kid’s emotional vulnerability? Research suggests that you can. The Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) was initially developed by Dr. Marsha Linehan to help treat patients with borderline personality disorders, but it’s now commonly used by clinicians to help people struggling with various psychological issues.
Over the years, DBT has been found to be particularly effective in helping in the development of emotion regulation skills. Specifically, the ABC PLEASE program developed under the DBT framework provides tools to deal with emotional vulnerability. Although it is a specialized therapy that can only be applied by highly trained practitioners, some of its underlying principles can be easily applied at home to help kids learn to regulate their emotions. Here are a few tips you can borrow from the ABC PLEASE method.
Accumulate positive emotions
Kids accumulate positive emotions when they participate in positive events. Helping your kid focus on positive emotions can help reduce his emotional vulnerability. Encouraging your kid to do things he enjoys – reading books, hanging out with friends, playing video-games – helps him accumulate positive emotions. The more positive emotions he has, the less likely he is to suffer from emotional vulnerability.
There is also evidence that images that evoke positive emotions can help improve one’s moods. In other words, funny movies or humor can help kids reduce stress. Several studies also suggest that viewing positive images is an effective distractor from negative emotions. Thus harnessing the power of positive visualization (having your kid imagine things he likes or displaying images of things he likes) can help kids increase their positive emotions.
Your kid is more likely to develop positive emotions when she feels competent. A kid’s emotional vulnerability reduces when she develops a sense of accomplishment. It’s important to set reasonable expectations and gradually raise those expectations when she attains them. Remember that expectations set too high or too low can lead to frustration.
Coping ahead begins by teaching your kid to identity different emotions. It also means helping him understand that different emotions can be described in different ways and are often interlinked. For instance, anxiety and insecurity are always associated with fear.
Once your kid is aware of the different emotions, developing an action plan for dealing with difficult emotions can help reduce his emotional vulnerability. Different, easy-to-adapt, emotion regulation strategies can help kids learn to cope when they encounter difficult emotions. In other words, a kid who is aware of the different emotions and how those emotions are manifested in his body is more likely to be aware of emotional triggers and to apply effective techniques to prevent a meltdown.
Effective techniques can include activities such as breathing exercises to help your kid relax, or activities that help distract from difficult emotions like reading, cycling, or listening to music.
Helping your kid practice different scenarios, especially focusing on how he reacts to difficult situations, also helps develop his “coping ahead” skills. According to the ABC PLEASE method, developing a plan to deal with difficult emotions ahead of time helps reduce emotional vulnerability.
Physical well being
Illness negatively affects emotional vulnerability. If your child is highly emotional, consulting a professional can help you ensure that her problems with emotions do not stem from her physical health. Physical well being means consulting a professional every time there is a need to, and respecting his or her recommendations.
Physical well being also includes issues such as fatigue and hunger. Your kid is more likely to be emotionally vulnerable when she’s hungry, thirsty, or tired.
Kids with low immunity are more emotionally vulnerable. Low immunity can be the result of poor eating habits, lack of exercise, and environmental issues. Ensuring kids eat right and get exercise can help reduce their vulnerability. Encouraging your kid to connect with nature every day can help create more positive emotions.
According to the ABC PLEASE method, eating healthy foods can help reduce kids’ emotional vulnerability. It’s important for kids to eat regular and balanced meals.
Avoid mood-altering substances
Certain foods have an impact on kids’ emotions. An increasing amount of evidence suggests that cutting out certain foodstuffs from your kid’s diet could help reduce anxiety and hyperactivity. Non-prescribed drugs or non-respected medical prescriptions can also have an impact on kids’ emotions, and mind-altering substances can increase kid’s emotional vulnerability.
Fatigue increases emotional vulnerability. To reduce emotional vulnerability, kids need sufficient rest. According to the National Sleep Foundation, missing as little as 30 to 60 minutes of sleep time can have a negative effect on kids’ behavior. The foundation points out that kids, unlike adults, don’t slow down when they need sleep, they wind up. The foundation provides useful information on how much sleep babies and school-aged kids need.
Regular exercise can help kids reduce their emotional vulnerability. Even a few minutes of free play everyday can help increase kids’ positive emotions.
Although the tips presented above can help your kid work on his or her emotional vulnerability, they will not solve serious psychological issues your kid may be struggling with. Seeking help from a healthcare professional is a sign of strength, not weakness. A professional can help you develop an appropriate action plan adapted to your kid’s needs.