Emotional regulation is the ability to manage your behavior and emotions in a way that is congruent with the demands of the situation. The ability to tolerate frustration looks very different in a 3 year-old than it does in a 7 year-old. When a child can regulate their emotions, they can, among other things:
- Resist highly emotional responses to situations that are frustrating.
- Calm down when they are upset.
- Demonstrate flexibility when there is a change in expectations or activities.
- Experience emotions and move on, without building a house and living in that emotion for long periods of time.
Being able to regulate one’s emotions is a set of skills that children have to be taught so they can eventually direct their own behavior towards a goal even when things become unpredictable.
When we look at emotional regulation as “skills to be taught,” instead of framing it as “bad behavior” to prevent or avoid, it changes the way we give feedback to our students. For example, when little Johnny gets really frustrated because he is building with blocks and then is asked to come to the table for reading group, a teacher would help Johnny acknowledge that he is upset by saying, “Johnny, I can tell that leaving the block table is making you sad or upset.” Validating the way a student feels is the first step in helping students regulate their emotions. They must first be able to identify emotions before they can use strategies to work through the emotion. The teacher then might ask Johnny to think of ways he could calm down and make a plan for moving to the reading table. While this all might sound elementary, it is an essential process in teaching emotional regulation.
We know that approaching mental health in such a proactive way is invaluable for our students. Thankfully, our Board of Trustees recognizes and agrees that an early approach to counseling is so important for the development of our students’ social and emotional confidence and mental health. With the addition of a counselor committed to our students from Little Explorers to Third Grade, we’re able to implement a proactive program instead of a reactive one. Instead of waiting for students to fail or for behavioral issues to arise, our primary students are learning and practicing skills while they are in a calm state of mind. We are thrilled to have Ms. Peed working with our students and teachers Monday through Wednesday each week.
Carrie Peed also known as, C.J., has lived in Wilmington with her two teenage children for over 14 years. C.J. received her MA degree in Art Therapy and Counseling from the CACREP (The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Education Programs) accredited program at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, IN. She received her BA from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill in Studio Art with a Psychology emphasis. During the past 5 years she has been working in the community in her current private practice and is a Licensed Professional Counselor Associate. Prior to this she worked in a variety of schools in Los Angeles, Chapel Hill, Durham and the triangle area. C.J. has been excited to return to the classroom/school environment to support, inspire, and encourage our LE through Third grade students to be kind, accountable, and equipped to be his or her best. C.J. utilizes evidenced-based art activities and art making processes, when appropriate, as part of the social emotional curriculum.
Stephanie Medcalfe is the Lower School Director at Cape Fear Academy.
Stephanie and her husband moved to Wilmington from Indianapolis, Indiana where she was the Assistant Principal for Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School. Stephanie has taught in both elementary and middle schools and has been a Special Educator. She graduated from Ball State University with a B.S. in Elementary Education and an M.E. in Educational Administration. She is responsible for the Lower School Faculty and the After School Program.