You will find that many children on the autism spectrum and with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder will have difficulties controlling their emotions. It’s believed by both scientists and parents alike that most of these children lack executive function skills.
Executive function skills include being able to organize, manage time, sustain attention, be persistent in following goals, among many other things. These skills can be learned in the future, but as a child, it can lead to a lack of emotional control among children.
Children with autism and ADHD tend to have a poor understanding of their own emotions and how to control them, that is why it is harder to parent a child with ADHD. While this can be learned later in life, it’s always best to help your children develop ways to cope with their feelings so that they may start out their lives with as many advantages as they can.
If you’re a parent or guardian looking for ways to help your child understand themselves and develop coping mechanisms, I present to you five tips to help children with autism and ADHD develop emotional control.
Be a Model of Emotional Control
Children constantly look up to adults, especially their parents and guardians. It’s through watching and observing that they learn what is and what isn’t okay to do. If you yell or ignore people when you get angry, your child will assume these are acceptable ways to handle anger.
If you want to be able to instill emotional control in a child, you need to make sure that you have an understanding of your own emotions as well. This will go far in helping your child develop proper coping mechanisms
Teach Your Child How to Identify Emotions
Children with autism can have a difficult time understanding what they’re feeling, leading to a lack of control over them. It’s important to make sure they’re able to identify their own emotions; they may know what being mad is, but they may not be able to understand that it’s the reason why they’re in a bad mood.
Help your child learn their emotions by asking frequently. “How are you feeling” is a simple but effective way to do so. If they have trouble answering, help them work through the identification. You can always use an emotion color wheel.
Identifying emotions can also help you and your child understand the reasoning behind certain actions and bad habits. This way, you can identify where you need to start helping them develop coping skills.
Assist Your Child in Developing Coping Skills
The goal here is to help your child be independent. They should be able to cope with anger, sadness, and fear without relying on you or an adult. After all, school starts at a very young age. If your child ends up having frustrations in class, they should be able to handle their own anger instead of causing a scene.
Teaching and practicing coping skills is essential for them to develop this emotional independence. When your child is having a hard time, be sure to identify the emotion and work with your child on how they can cope. Sometimes this is through comfort items, like their favorite toy. Teach them how to distract themselves from anger or sadness.
Remember that coping skills can also apply to positive emotions. If your child gets a bit too rowdy when they’re excited, it should be something that you should address.
Help Your Child Understand That Feelings Will Pass
When a child experiences a negative emotion, it can feel like it lasts forever. In reality, unless it’s due to a major event like the passing of a pet or family member, these feelings will pass relatively quickly. Teach your child that their negative emotions will disappear soon enough and that things will get better.
This is something you should remind them of often. Show them that anger and sadness are temporary, and that through using coping skills, they can make these feelings pass even faster. Helping them learn this is a step forward in allowing them to become emotionally independent.
Create “What If” Scenarios
It’s important to prepare your child for possible situations that may cause them emotional distress, especially during school. “What if” scenarios are perfect for not only helping them to identify certain emotions, but also to plan for what coping skills should be used during these times.
Here are some classic “what if” scenarios that you and your child can roleplay:
- What if your sister steals your candy?
- What if you accidentally break your favorite toy?
- What if you can’t figure out the answer to a homework question?
- What if a mean kid calls you stupid on the playground?
All these hypothetical scenarios are to prepare your child for possible negative emotions, how to identify them, and what to do instead of acting out or getting too emotional.