Self-regulation is defined as the ability to manage your emotions and behavior in accordance with the demands of a situation. It’s the ability to calm yourself when upset, to resist highly emotional reactions to stressful stimuli, and the ability to handle frustration and adjust to a change in expectation. Children have varying degrees of self-regulation, depending on development, temperament and life experiences. Self-regulation is a key ingredient in children’s school and life success. Building self-regulation skills at home will have a positive impact on your family as well as on your child’s future.
Some tools to help build self-regulation in children:
- Model self-control.
- Provide a predictable environment – schedules and routines allow children to feel safe.
- Ensure that transitions are carried out in a quiet, calm manner. Turn off the TV and read a quiet story prior to bedtime.
- Read books with your child that focus on strong emotions and how to cope with them.
- Help your child identify his/her feelings throughout the day. What does iit feel like in your body when you are calm? How does your face look when you are scared? Frustrated? Happy? Giving names to feelings helps children self-regulate. Daniel Siegel says, “Name it to tame it.”
- Take pictures of your child expressing different emotions. Print them out and post them. When you notice your child experiencing an emotion invite him/her to match the feeling with the picture.
- Create a space in your home for your child to calm back down. Ask your child to come up with a name for the space and think of things to put there. This positive time out space should have things which help your child regulate (favorite stuffed toy, coloring book, headphones, squishy ball, pillows). Your child can go their to self-regulate, and stay until he or she feels ready to rejoin the group.
- When YOU are stressed, take a break: meditate, take a walk, exercise, etc. Your children learn from your behavior.