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Children with affective incontinence or when they cannot control their emotions


When we talk about children with affective incontinence, we want to refer to children who find it difficult to control their emotions. Children who find it difficult to manage fear, joy, sadness, anger, frustration, etc.

In these cases, what happens is that children's emotions acquire such intensity that it is not easy to control them, neither for them nor for their parents, therefore it is important to know the role we play in this process of emotional regulation in our children.

Children are not born with a repertoire of tools to manage and regulate their emotions, so it is important that from a young age we teach and help them in this process. Just as we teach them to dress, wash, eat alone, or pick up their toys, we have to teach them what emotions are and know how to handle them, so that they do not handle them.

To do this, the first thing we have to bear in mind is that children need to learn to recognize emotions and differentiate them from each other. And once they know how to recognize them, the next thing is that they learn to regulate them.

Emotions in children appear progressively throughout development. From the time they are babies, children experience and express emotions that are very basic at first (joy, discomfort, surprise, fear ...) and little by little more complex emotions appear. Emotional development is closely related to the child's cognitive development, social development, language, and self-awareness.

The language here is going to play a very important role, since it will allow children to express what they feel, "I am afraid", "I am sleepy", "I am sad". But to express it, they must know exactly what they are feeling. The expression and understanding of emotions have different developmental rhythms, and so although children express emotions, it does not necessarily imply that they understand what they are feeling.

And this is where parents play an important role, we have to help them name what they are experiencing, ("You are angry because I don't let you play with the ball at home" or "You are sad because your friend has not been able to play in the park ", or" you are afraid to ride a bike ", or" you are very excited because we are going to celebrate your birthday "). The intensity of emotions and the learning of their regulation will depend largely on the socialization processes and affective exchanges that take place within the family.

To help our children control their emotions, some guidelines to keep in mind can be:

- Help them name what they feel and facilitate the expression of emotions.

- Be an example. Many times we parents are the ones who "get out of control" at home, and this is an example and model for children, so to teach our children to contain themselves, the first thing is to contain ourselves. And this is not always easy, so we also have to take this into account: If it is sometimes difficult for me to control myself, I have to understand that it is also difficult for my son sometimes.

- Teach him to calm down. It is clear that at the moment of emotional outburst it is more difficult to make the child calm down, or do things to calm down, so it is important that we teach him little by little. Depending on the emotion, there are techniques that can help us, for example, for anger or anger: the turtle technique, the traffic light or time out, or to distract you if you have been scared or sad.

- Don't ignore your emotions nor deny them, but understand them.

- Help the child differentiate between emotion and behavior. The child may be angry because he cannot play ball at home, and consequently misbehave (hitting or throwing toys). I have to teach him that I understand that he is angry, but that his behavior is inappropriate and has consequences. That is, the consequence is not for the emotion, but for the behavior.

And although this may not seem like an easy task, it is possible and in the end we will see results.

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