FUN FACT: An Escalated Adult Cannot De-escalate an Escalated Teen!

Updated: Oct 22, 2021

During an #intenseemotionalreaction, the brain enters #survivalmode. It shuts down the thinking part of the brain (#upstairsbrain) and simply reacts to a threat (whether perceived or real), their (#downstairsbrain) has temporarily taken over their ability to control themselves and they are feeling overwhelmed (#flippingyourlid). Adolescents & children will tend to mirror the stress and emotions of the adults around them. It is important that you model #emotionalregulationskills by responding to the emotions of the #dysregulatedteenorchild vs reacting to the behaviour presented.



The Window of Tolerance


Coined by Dr Daniel Siegel, the #windowoftolerance refers to the optimal zone of arousal where we can function, manage, and thrive. This is the zone in which we successfully handle the stressors of our daily lives without excessive emotional distress or engaging in maladaptive behaviours.

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Dr Daniel Siegel's #handmodelofthebrain is a helpful way of showing the functions of the brain and what happens when we ‘flip our lids’. This is what happens when the lower parts of our brain take over (fight, flight or freeze) and our cortical, or thinking, the brain becomes disconnected.











Modelling Emotional Regulation Skills


Adolescents & children often have intense emotions that are difficult to manage, such as anger, shame, guilt, depression, or anxiety. Difficulties controlling these emotions often lead to problematic behaviours that affect you and those around you. Problematic behaviours are often ineffective solutions to intensely painful emotions.


We want our children to become the captain of their ship, the boss of their own emotions, #Emotionregulationskills help us reduce emotional vulnerability, stop unwanted emotions from starting in the first place, feel less emotionally vulnerable, and feel more in command of our own emotions, by learning how to experience emotions like a wave without drowning in them.


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20 Ways of Responding to a Dysregulated Child


Do not try to reason with them

It may be tempting to try to reason with your child but often that will make them angrier.

Avoid saying things like “I know you wanted me to take you to Chapters after school, but I had to work late.”


Demands & Threats don’t work

Have you ever known anyone to “stop” or “calm down” when asked during a meltdown? It doesn’t matter how nicely, or assertively, you ask.


Do not attempt to yell to be heard over a dysregulated child

Yelling makes you appear threatening and will not help de-escalate a meltdown.


Validate their feelings, but not the behaviours

Giving validation to their feelings shows your child that you accept their thoughts, feelings, and sensations.


Respect personal space

Everyone’s personal “bubble” is different, but regardless that bubble gets bigger with heightened emotions.


Be aware of your body language and facial expressions

It’s important to appear calm and non-threatening throughout your child’s meltdown. The best way to do this is by being mindful of your body language and facial expressions.


Get on your child’s level

Don’t stand over them, looking down at them as you talk. It gives off a vibe of superiority that isn’t helpful at the moment. It also can feel threatening.


Use distraction carefully

Distress Tolerance Skill #ACCEPTS offers multiple suggestions on using distraction as a crisis survival skill, collaboration may be difficult with a dysregulated child. Creating a #copingkit when your child is emotionally regulated can be beneficial to bring out in these moments, by reminding them what they had listed as coping tools.


Reflect on your child’s wants and needs

Reflective listening shows you are listening to their concerns, however poorly they are being communicated. If you’re lucky enough to get a moment where your child says “YES!” to your reflection, it opens an opportunity for you to then validate your child’s feelings and help them calm down.


Acknowledge your child’s right to refusal

like they are being “forced” to do something. Acknowledge this r