Co-regulate to Self-regulate.

The Role you Play in Your Child’s Regulation.

Regulation is a tricky thing. We take for granted all the pieces that  have to come together in order to see our children calm, happy and in the moment. There are so many pieces that come together in this one moment! Just to name a few: personality, sensory regulation, nutrition, amount of physical output a child receives, how much screen time, modeling parents behaviors, creative outlet, rest, sleep etc…

In some of my sessions I teach children to become more aware of themselves and strategies to regulate the ups and downs of their day. There are many strategies to do that such as zones of regulation, naming emotions, personal space, voice modulation etc… however I want to address an important component of our children’s key to regulation and that is CO-regulation. Your child must first learn to co-regulate before they learn to self-regulate. They’re very young to turn inwards right away when something arises. They look to us, the adults, to help them tap into what they need to do to regulate themselves.

Imagine a child that gets very hyped and very upset about something happening in the playground, their system is revved up and we are asking them to self-regulate. First, they would have to recognize that they’re out of whack, then have to have the desire to calm, then have the tools to do that and finally implement them. (That’s a lot for a child that has difficulty with regulation) This is where we come in. We respond calmly. We keep our own energy regulated and also detached so that we are there as observers to help our child with their own outbursts. This is not the time to get enmeshed with the emotions of your child.

By detached I don’t mean disconnected. The trick is to stay connected, yet not enter “the madness”. Stay the observer so that you can become the one your child will co-regulate with. Think of it  like watching a TV show. You can watch and be very connected to the characters but you don’t let it become you. You stay the observer.

The more you can do that, the more you can remain in grace under fire and the more efficient you will be at helping your child regulate. 

Model the behavior that you WANT to see. Your child is always watching you. When you can model regulation, there are greater chances that your child will match up with that energy and with time (and repetition) learn how to do that for themselves. 

Commit as a parent to taking care of yourself and your own needs first. This is not selfish. This is crucial in order to be present, truly present for our family and our children. When we show up from a full cup we have more to give and we have a much easier time remaining the observers of the daily ups and downs of parenthood.

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Hi, I 'm Nancy

I’m an Occupational Therapist (OT) with more than 18 years of experience and whose greatest passion is working with children of all abilities. 

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