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Helping Teens with Self-Regulation During Crisis

a mother helps her teen self regulate during a mental health crisis

Watching a teen struggle with mental health concerns is one of the hardest situations parents can find themselves in. Connecting a teen to an adolescent crisis intervention program is the best way a parent can help a teen learn the skills for self-regulation when a crisis occurs.

Imagine Boise is an outpatient mental health treatment center for teens aged 12-17. Call us today at 888.597.2807 for more information on how we can help your teen.

What Is Self-Regulation in Crisis for Teens?

Crisis is a mental health term that refers to being in a concerning emotional state. A state of crisis is usually identified as involving one or several of the following:

  • At risk of hurting oneself
  • At risk of hurting others
  • Inability to care for oneself appropriately
  • Inability to function

If your teenager’s mental or emotional health puts them at risk of experiencing a crisis, working with a professional mental healthcare provider can help them learn how to recognize the warning signs and how to self-regulate.

Tips for Teen Self-Regulation in Crisis

Self-regulation in crisis for teens entails recognizing the signs of internal crisis and knowing how to react. When it comes to crisis self-regulation, teens need to be taught what to do.

The thoughts and emotions that accompany a crisis can feel overwhelming. By teaching strategies for crisis self-regulation, teens are empowered to gain control before the situation escalates. Parents can help by becoming educated on self-regulation and knowing what strategies are most effective for their teens.

These tips can help a teen avoid a crisis state or move through one quickly.

Know Your Triggers

It’s very common for crises to be triggered by stressful or challenging situations. For some, a trigger can be external, caused by the overstimulation of crowds, loud noises, or bright lights.

For others, triggers can be emotional dynamics, like conflict, bullying, stress, or rejection. Teens who understand why, where, and when they’re triggered are more likely to anticipate their own reactions, which means they’re empowered to ask for help, seek space, or take some other action to self-regulate.


Self-soothing is the practice of using the five senses to distract from distressing thoughts or feelings. The senses are powerful. They have the ability to help teens focus their attention on other sensations.

Common examples of self-soothing practices include:

  • Identify the different sounds around you
  • Listen to calming music
  • Identify the smells around you
  • Keep a calming scent on hand, like a bottle of essential oil
  • Eat a snack, candy, or gum, and focus on the taste
  • Find something to touch, and focus on the sensation
  • Play a visual game, like counting colors or objects around you

Movement is also a powerful way to self-soothe. Walking, exercise, dancing, or even rhythmic motions can help a teen ground themselves, placing focus on bodily sensations they have control over.

Learn Breathwork

The breath is deeply connected to physiological functions like heart rate. Learning to control the breath can help calm emotions, slow racing thoughts, and bring a sense of control.

Teens who learn breathing exercises or engage in meditation, yoga, or other activities that involve controlling their breath have an advantage when a crisis strikes. Proactively learning how to control the breath can bring teen self-regulation in crisis and help prevent a crisis from happening.

Imagine Boise Helps Teens Learn Self-Regulation

Teens who learn how to self-regulate during a crisis can gain the self-confidence that comes from feeling in control of one’s own thoughts and emotions.

Imagine Boise works with teens aged 12-17 to build a foundation for lasting mental and emotional health. For more information on how to help your teen learn the crisis self-regulation skills they need to thrive, call Imagine Boise today at 888.597.2807. You can also fill out our online form and let us get back to you.