Dear Renée: How do I help a dyslexic child regulate their emotions?

I asked you to send me your most pressing questions regarding parenting, emotional health and the creative mind. 

You sent in lots of thoughtful questions which I will answer through the blogs in the coming weeks – and if you would like to send yours (anonymously) to receive guidance or new ideas then you can do so HERE

If you work with dyslexic and creative children or if you have dyslexic children yourself, then this teacher’s question is for you...


I often find that children who have problems regulating their anger/emotions, have parents who don't regulate their own emotions very well. I work mostly with dyslexic children.
Parents expect me focus on the dyslexia and not on their relationship with their child. How do I help a child to regulate his emotions when he lives in what is effectively a ‘toxic’ home environment?

Thank you for your question! It highlights two key points we need to take into account if we have anything to do with dyslexic children:

  1. Emotions and learning are very closely linked.

  2. Parents must address their own emotional responses, before trying to deal with their children’s outbursts.

  3. Remember – put on your own oxygen mask first, before trying to save your child!

As a parent of dyslexic children, I can vividly remember how easy it was to let my own frustration at not being able to help them spiral out of hand. Whether it was the fear for their future, the lack of support at school, or the sheer anger at what I considered their lack of co-operation – it could easily end in self-defeating tears for all of us.

Like many young parents, I was utterly unaware that I held the key to change in my own hands.

I would have loved a teacher like you, to take me by the hand and show me the way.

So, back to the question -

Start by assuming that parents want the best for their children. This does not mean that they necessarily know how to go about things in helpful or constructive ways. Being ill equipped does not make them bad either. But they do need to wake up to how much they are blocking the process of change in their children and how they can change things.

Like any top athlete or performer, dyslexic children need a support team to succeed. Parents, teachers, coaches – you are all part of the team and at the centre of it is the child who wants encouragement in learning how to manage and develop himself.

Rise to the challenge then, and make it standard practice to involve all parents in the work you do – either on a 1-to-1 basis or by holding informative group sessions with several parents at once, so that they get each other’s feedback too.

To help a child – and their parents – regulate their emotions better consider...

What do you want parents to KNOW?

  • The human brain takes up to 25 years to develop and children filter life through their feelings, not through their intellect. It takes all that time to learn to regulate and control emotions, to think things through, to develop empathy and insight into the point of view of another person, and so on.

  • They come into the world brimming with potential and it is our job to help them connect and express that.

  • An agitated brain can’t ever make consistent connections in this ‘upstairs’ part of the brain, so the key to all learning is a calm brain with which the child can see what happened and their role in it. By gaining an overview like that, children can start making amends and working out better strategies for next time.

  • Real learning is a process of engagement and connection, which requires a sense of safety. Children do not feel safe with agitated elders around.

What do you want parents to DO?

  • Encourage them to stay connected with their children at all times. This means staying calm themselves – otherwise children disconnect from their own process and get lost in the parent’s stuff without following through on what they were up to.

  • Acknowledge the child’s feelings of frustration and fear. This clears the way to look at the behaviour that isn’t working and as often as you can, get the child to suggest an alternative solution before offering your own.

  • Talk much less – children can’t absorb verbal overload when they are in a state of overwhelm.

What do you want parents to FEEL?

  • Make them curious about the feelings their children’s actions pull up in them. Those heightened feelings will tell their own story of vulnerability.

  • Encourage parents to notice those feelings and address them; not by denying them but by acknowledging them and finding ways to control them better so that they don’t get in the way of what they most want to achieve: to cultivate their children’s joy of life-long love of learning and self-expression.

And finally, what question would YOU like me to answer for you?

I always love to hear how you get on with the tips and tools from my blogs and I also want to be able to provide you with resources relevant to your needs. Please do send me your questions on parenting, emotional health or the creative mind (anonymously) to receive guidance or new ideas on topics that are important to you. To do so simply click HERE to submit your query. 

If you would rather speak to me about one-to-one coaching and therapy then please get in touch HERE

Here are a couple of further reading recommendations for you: 

For an inspiring read, I suggest No-Drama Discipline by Daniel Siegel.

If you want an easy way to explain how heightened emotions get in the way of learning, use Dan’s easy hand model.