When Their Storm Meets Our Calm: The Art of Co-Regulation

 

Has your cheerful child ever quickly become a ball of tears when a near-by peer begins crying? Have you ever lost the pep in your step after spending time around a grumpy co-worker? This is because the feelings and behaviors of people in close proximity to us, directly impact how we feel, and respond to our own emotions. In the same way adults are impacted by others actions, children pick up the moods of others around them. However, being able to regulate emotions effectively and efficiently is not an innate skill. A child’s capacity to manage their big emotions relies on their brain development and their experiences. Therefore, when feeling upset or overwhelmed children look to their caregivers for help with regulating their emotions and appropriately respond to external stressors. 

What is Co-Regulation?

Co-regulation is the supportive process between caring adults and children that fosters self-regulation development. The process of co-regulation actually elicits changes in the brain. Neuroscience shows that as you co-regulate with someone the mirror neurons in the brain are activated which enables the person in a dysregulated state to “mirror” your calmness. Children are constantly watching us for cues on how to feel and react, and they need the adults in their lives to join them in their efforts to regulate their brain, body, and emotions to meet the demands of the situation they are in. Therefore, before young children can self-regulate, they first need the support of the adults around them to teach and help them develop the abilities to regulate on their own. 

Why is it Important?

Co-regulation is the foundation to children learning how to self-regulate. In order to move from a co-existing place to a place of independence, a child needs to first develop emotional intelligence and social emotional learning. Caregiver co-regulation allows caring adults (parents, teachers, etc.) to facilitate children’s emotional regulation by providing them with external support. These experiences serve as scaffolds for children to develop their own ability to deal with strong emotions and external stressors. 


How to Support Co-regulation?

The best way  to help your child develop their self-regulation skills, is to support them in co-regulation, by modeling and teaching them calming strategies and tools they can learn to use on their own. When adults stay calm, children can become calm and feel secure. When children become or stay calm, they are better able to listen, learn, and engage.

Strategies for Supporting Co-regulation:

  • Create a warm & positive relationship with your child 
    • Provide physical and emotional comfort when your child is distressed or dysregulated
    • Recognize and respond to your cues your child is giving that signal their wants and needs
    • Show interest in your child’s world 
  • Structure the environment
    • create an environment that is physically and emotionally safe for your child to explore and learn (this may include incorporating sensory supports if needed)
    • Provide consistent routines 
    • Clearly communicate expectations 
  • Model and teach self-regulation strategies such as:
    • Labeling emotions – you can help your child learn to process big feelings by helping them label what they are feeling, and work together to solve their problem.
    • Coach your child on using self-calming techniques  like  taking deep breaths or a break, positive self-talk, or using a sensory support 
    • Provide a calm-down space for taking a break when your child is overwhelmed

If your child is demonstrating difficulty maintaining a regulated state, consider contacting one of our occupational therapists or social workers, who can provide your family with helpful tips and tricks to support your child’s self-regulation skills. 

Questions or concerns? 

If you have questions or concerns about your child’s responses to noise, please contact us  at info@playworkschicago.com or 773-332-9439. 

 

Rachel Sitzmann, MS, OTR/L  

Occupational therapist 

 

References:

Bath, H.I. (2008). Calming together: The pathway to self-control. Reclaiming Children and Youth, 16, 4. pp. 44-46.

Rosanbalm, K.D., & Murray, D.W. (2017). Caregiver Co-regulation Across Development: A Practice Brief. OPRE Brief #2017-80. Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, US. Department of Health and Human Services. 

Photo Credit: parentingnow.org (1): Kristen Weins (2) via exceptionallives.org

Container Baby Syndrome: Why equipment-free exercise is best for your baby

 

What is “Container Baby Syndrome?”

Container Baby Syndrome is a “collection of movement, behavioral, and other problems caused by a baby or infant spending too much time in a container-any commonly used piece of baby equipment that resembles a container.” While this may sound intimidating, Container Baby Syndrome is highly preventable and there are many ways parents and caregivers can help children develop while avoiding this!

 

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Summer Sun Sensory Fun

 

It’s officially summertime in the Chi and we couldn’t be more excited! This perfect weather is practically begging our little ones to go outside and play. These fun, summer sensory rich activities are wonderful ways to engage our children’s tactile system and expose them to different scents, textures, and sensations. 

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The Importance of Free Play

 

What is Free Play?

Free play is when we allow children to have freedom to play in whatever and however way they want, with no direction from an adult (but adults are encouraged to participate from time to time!) They can choose their play materials and activities and how they engage with them. Choice is the crucial component for free play.

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Speech at the Beach!

 

Summertime in Chicago is approaching and that can only mean one thing… Time to hit the beach! Whether your child is playing in the sand or splashing in the water, there are so many amazing ways to continue targeting his or her speech and language goals while soaking up some sun. Let’s “dive” into a few different beach-based activities and how you can implement speech and language for kids of all ages with ease!

 

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Neurodiversity Means Natural Variety in the Human Brain

 

In recent years, it has become more recognized that a shift in societal perspectives is necessary for true inclusion, specifically regarding (but not limited to) autism and ADHD. Historically, autism and ADHD have been pathologized to focus on the way areas for growth impair a person’s “normalness”, rather than the constructive ways that individuals use their unique strengths. Neurodiverse children and adults do experience difficulties related to living in a world that is not accommodating and understanding of differences. The neurodiversity movement does not seek to trivialize how challenging growing up neurodiverse can be, but rather help focus on building shared understanding of the value neurodiverse individuals have just as they are.

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Gentle Parenting

You’re at Target and your child is begging for a toy.  You say no, and he/she begins to cry.  How do you respond?

  1. Put the toy in your cart.
  2. Tell them to stop crying.
  3. Explain that it’s incredibly frustrating to not get what we want, and that it’s okay to feel sad about that, while maintaining the boundary that you will not get her the toy.

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It’s Reflexive! Retained Reflexes and Their Effect on Development

 

Retained primitive reflexes are immature movement patterns that can often have effects on a child’s overall development. Naturally, these reflexes should “integrate” or disappear during infancy. When a reflex is retained, more mature movement patterns are not developed, which can have an effect on sensory integration, posture, executive functioning skills, and overall neuroplasticity. Recognizing and treating these retained reflexes can have a big impact on a child’s overall development. 

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Nighttime Anxiety and Sleep Disturbances: Putting Your Child’s Worries to Bed

 

As adults, we have all been there, it is past your “bedtime,” you are wide-eyed, staring at your ceiling and your thoughts are racing. The time flies by as you intermittently check your clock and countdown the hours until your alarm goes off in the morning, but something in you just will not let you fall asleep. Did you know that kids can experience the same type of nighttime anxiety that keeps them awake? They may not be able to identify their resistance to falling asleep as “anxiety” but parents and caregivers can teach their kids the tools they need to understand what is keeping them awake and how to address it.

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