Dialectical/Cognitive Behavior Therapy in Children

Having kids can be fun and happy but it will become challenging and tiring when the same kids become so adamant and throw tantrums. It is a very common behaviour among kids and teens to do so and they will eventually learn to manage their emotions. But in certain cases, kids engage in aggressive behaviours like biting, slashing, and throwing things in addition to their tantrums. Continue reading to know more about how to handle these issues through cognitive behavioural therapy and how kids can benefit from DBT and learn to better control their emotions.

Also, Check: Benefits of behavior therapy in Autism

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What is Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT)?

DBT is a kind of cognitive-behavioural therapy that seeks to alter behaviour by helping people acknowledge and embrace their emotions. It seeks to alter their behaviour by acknowledging and accepting their current emotions and providing tools that can help with regulating their emotions and improving tolerance and mindfulness.

This cognitive behavioural therapy has been adapted to accommodate the unique needs of children. Its main goals are teaching coping mechanisms, identifying problematic thought patterns, and regulating intense emotions.

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When to go for DBT?

When a child has tantrums frequently and is irritated most of the time, DBT-C may be beneficial. Tantrums aren’t typically a symptom of a more serious problem, but in these situations, parents should think about Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for their child. The DBT-C is especially suited for children between the ages of 6 and 12 years, depending on their developmental stage. Following are some of the situations in which parents should consider DBT-C for their child:

1. High emotional sensitivity:

Children who are very emotionally sensitive have a tendency to react quickly and strongly to any emotional trigger. They will have long-lasting reactions and find it extremely challenging to manage their feelings as a result of the intense emotional activation.

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Signs and Symptoms:
  • Verbal or physical violence
  • Self-destructive behaviour
  • Gets bored easily and acts hyperactive
  • Short attention span
  • Sensitive to surroundings
  • Impulsive action and doesn’t like changes
  • They experience interpersonal problems
  • Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder (DMDD) – DMDD has been diagnosed in kids who have frequent outbursts and tantrums practically every day

Also, Check: Common behavioral disorder in kids

2. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD):

ADHD is the most prevalent neurodevelopmental disorder. Children with this condition have trouble paying attention, controlling impulsive actions, and regulating their restless feelings. ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) symptoms typically first appear between the ages of 3 and 6. Because ADHD affects the sexes differently, it is less frequently diagnosed in girls.

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  • Predominantly hyperactive-impulsive
  • Predominantly inattentive
  • Combined hyperactive-impulsive and inattentive

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 Signs & Symptoms:
  • Trouble in staying focused on a task
  • Often makes careless mistakes
  • Easily distracted
  • Difficulty in following instructions.
  • Frequently avoid tasks that require a long time.
  • Can’t remain still 
  • Disorganized
  • Inability to control oneself or be impulsive.
  • Excessive and uncontrolled movements
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Short attention spans and a lack of focus

Also, Check: ADHD: Symptoms and remedies 

3. Eating Disorder:

It is a condition caused due to unhealthy eating habits of children which gets manifested into a serious problem and affects the health, mind and body of the child. Eating disorders are more emotional and mental problems than physical ones. There are several types of eating disorder which includes Anorexia, Bulimia, Binge eating, AFRID (avoidant restrictive food intake disorder), pica etc. 

Alos, Check: Healthy eating for children

Signs& Symptoms:
  • These children have both physical and mental conditions
  • Weight gain/ Weight Loss
  • Hair loss
  • Change in blood pressure and drop in heart rate
  • Extreme Dieting or Extreme Exercising
  • Sensitivity to cold
  • Dizziness and Insomnia
  • Irregular Menstrual cycle
  • Depressions and anxiety, Mood Disorder/ mood Swings
  • Unable to cope with emotions
  • Low self-esteem

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4. Anxiety and Depression:

Children with anxiety and Depression frequently internalise what they are thinking and feeling. Some people’s anxiety may progress to the point that it interferes with their day-to-day activities, results in sleep deprivation, and impairs academic performance at school. 

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Signs & Symptoms:
  • Being terrified to separate from a parent
  • They refuse to attend school because they do not want to be around other people
  • Having phobias related to particular things or circumstances
  • Persistently thinking that something horrible would happen
  • Suffering from panic attacks
  • Unable to participate in class activities or engage with family members

Also check, Tantrums and ADHD: How to manage?

Benefits and approach of DBT-C

DBT-C is primarily concerned with teaching parents and kids techniques for becoming more conscious of their emotional states and thoughts. Additionally, it teaches stress level management skills, effective thought and emotional expression. The following are some examples of DBT skills for children:

1. Mindfulness:

Being mindful means being conscious of your thoughts and emotions as they emerge and pass. It enables kids to remain grounded in the current moment and control their emotions. Breathing exercise like square breathing is taught to children who are feeling furious or tense to reduce their stress and anxiety.

Also check, Types of therapies for autism

2. Radical Acceptance:

Radical acceptance is a key element of distress tolerance, where kids learn to accept their situations completely rather than resisting them and tolerating the stress. They learn that they do not have perfect control over any situation, but they do have the ability to make better choices.

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3. Managing emotions:

One popular method is ‘Riding the Wave,’ in which they will learn to feel emotions like ocean waves. The child will learn to recognise their emotions and observe them naturally come and go rather than trying to control them. The method is crucial for children and teens to manage extremely intense emotions like rage and grief. DBT-C uses a number of visualisation techniques to promote emotional mindfulness.  

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4. Interpersonal Skill development:

DBT-C includes the development of interpersonal skills that aid in establishing and maintaining positive relationships. With reasonable expectations, children will learn how to maintain good relationships. They learn how to be assertive while still being respectful and direct when expressing their feelings and views and asking for what they need.

Also, Check: Personality development for kids

5. Accepting Failure:

The mentality of accepting the results of actions without feeling guilty is taught through embracing failure. Instead of focusing on criticism, one learns to focus on encouragement to gradually improve subsequently. It is one of the most difficult skills for kids and parents to acquire as it includes accepting failures and using them as a learning opportunity for improvement. Children who are unable to maintain this level may experience additional stress and anxiety, which worsens the situation. 

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