S05|03 - How to Help Your Child RegulateAug 01, 2022
It can be challenging to keep our cool when our children lose theirs. We may shut down, withdraw, or react, when what we really desire to do is teach and model. Tune in today as we talk about the gift of co-regulation that we can give to our children, and what may be holding us back from using it.
If you’re ready to take your journey to the next level and integrate this work in your own life, join us as we start Parent School (starting August 15th), a small and intimate group program designed to increase the confidence you have in your parenting tools, simplify your parenting and help you tap into your own inner magic. Read more by CLICKING HERE. This will be the last opportunity to work with me until 2023, so don’t miss out (:
What we discuss today:
- How to help your child when they’re feeling big emotions
- Why it can be hard for us to soothe our children’s big feelings
- The purpose of co-regulation in fostering healthy self-regulation
- Setting you and your child up for success when co-regulating
Coaching has changed my own life, and the lives of my clients. More connection, more healing, more harmony and peace in our most important relationships. It increases confidence in any difficulties that come up in parenting, which helps you be the guide and teach your children the family values that are important to you- in clear ways. If you feel called to integrate this work in a deeper way, that’s what I’m here for.
Crystal The Parenting Coach: Before we dig into today's podcast episode, I have an exciting announcement; I am going to be enrolling, shortly, a program that I designed called Parent School.
It is awesome; and I'm going to tell you just for a minute or two in the beginning of the episode about it, and then we'll get onto the fun episode that we have planned today.
So, Parent School is this, it is a very small intimate experience. It's a really small group. It has a really one-on-one vibe to it because there's only a few people in each group; I really get to know you, and I get to know your kids, and your situation.
And we're going to be doing this group for four months. So, it's going to be open August 8th, and it's going to start August 15th. And there's two ways in which you can participate, and I'll mention that in a minute.
But what it is designed for is designed for the woman/couple – couples are always encouraged – the woman who wants to make some shifts in parenting.
So, maybe you feel like you're successful in a lot of different areas of your life and you still feel successful in parenting – but you're like, 'I'd like some more concrete tools, I'd like some more skills, I'd like to just up-level that skillset…go from a good relationship with my kids to a great relationship with them.'
That is exactly what we're going to be doing in Parent School. It's going to be teaching those skills and tools, and teaching them in a more sustainable and a more deep-rooted way.
So, maybe you felt like, in the past, you've already taken courses or you've already read books, and weren't quite sure how to implement those into your parenting, this is a very different approach. This is a very top-down approach.
What I talk about is think, feel, do; how we think…creates how we feel…and that fuels what we do. A lot of help out there focuses on the do catch phrases or, you know, 'look your kids in the eye before you speak to them or spend 10 minutes a day connecting with them'.
They're very do, they're very action-focused, but they're not focusing on what comes before that, the think and the feel. So, what am I thinking? What am I feeling? How am I interacting in this relationship?
And that's where we have the power to change. And the power to change that we do have is so huge, and it's more long-term – it's more sustainable, and it's a more-- It's a more whole approach.
So, come join us at Parent School; you can find the link in the show notes, and you can check it out. You can also check it out at www.coachcrystal.ca/group.
And there's two ways in which you can participate in this; it's going to be a four-month long group, and it's going to be a combo of some one-on-one coaching; and then also joining in these groups where we're going to be having workshops and we're going to have coaching, and it's going to be grand.
But if you would like a little bit more of an intimate experience, a little bit more of a individualized experience where maybe we tailor it to exactly what you're going through each week, that experience would be a one-on-one experience. And I'm also going to be opening that, and both of those will start August 15th. And anyone who's in the one-on-one, will have access to the group as well.
This is the last Parent School that I'm going to be running this year. So, I won't be running another one until January. So, if you would like to work with me, and if you've been on the fence about like, maybe, I don't know if this is the right time, just take this as your sign that it is the right time, because there's not going to be another opportunity until next year, and it's going to be fabulous.
So, check it out at the link. Book a call, and I can just show you what coaching's about. It's no pressure. I can just go through, and we can coach through something that you are dealing with right now - some challenge that you're having – and let you know what it's about, what it's all about. So, as you're listening to this episode, keep that in mind and reach out if you feel like it would be supportive in the next step of your journey.
Hi, I'm Crystal The Parenting Coach. Parenting is the thing that some of us just expected to know how to do. It's not like other areas of your life, where you go to school to be taught, get on the job training, or have mentors to help you learn. Now, you can get that help here.
I believe that your relationship with your children is one of the most important aspects of your life, and the best way that you can make a positive impact on the world and on the future. I've made parental relationships my life study, and use life coaching tools with connection-based parenting to build amazing relationships between parents and their children.
If you want an even better relationship with your child, this podcast will help you. Take my parenting quiz, the link is in the show notes. Once we know what your parenting style is, I'll give you some tips tailored to you and a roadmap to help you get the most out of my podcast. I invite you to help me spread the word by sharing your favorite episode on social media or with a friend.
Hi, welcome to today's podcast episode, How to Help Your Child Regulate. Now, this is a question that I get often and that I see often that people ask, they're like, 'How do I help my child develop these skills?'
So, I'm going to dig into what that means, and how we develop it, and what role we play within that – and some ideas, some practical tools that you can use. And I'm also going to dig into the mindset behind why it's sometimes difficult for us to use those tools or to help our kids use those tools.
So, a little bit of background, self-regulation means-- Emotional self-regulation is the ability to kind of bring ourselves back down when we're feeling those strong emotions, to bring ourselves kind of back down to that base level…and also to have some sort of control – at least, somewhat – around our behaviors when we're feeling that way.
So, when we're high in emotions, we're low on logic. So, we might say or do things that we don't actually mean, and we might act a little bit irrationally. And if you are a child lacking that fully developed prefrontal cortex, that's going to be even more difficult for them even in adolescence, right? This doesn't happen until later on.
So, it's hard for any of us, even as adults, to have that much sense of control and awareness in those moments when we're feeling really strong emotions. So, as I go through and talk today, I just want you to keep that in mind that it's not, this isn't to like shame you that you're not doing it perfectly.
There is no perfect…like all things, it doesn't need to be perfect. This is just a practice. I'm going to give you some skills and tools that you can use to help develop that practice within yourself, and just to continue on.
And also, that emotional regulation looks so different for different people, and the lack of that looks different for different people. Oftentimes when we're feeling a really strong emotion, we might be really reactive. We might like, you know, kind of… in our mind, kind of lose it.
We might be a little bit more stern. We might say things that we don't really mean or, you know, ground our children for the rest of their lives because we're feeling upset.
But we also might kind of just shut down and withdraw. It's not necessarily always like reactive in that way that we think of kind of that explosive way; sometimes it's like more of a shutdown.
There's a few different ways that we can respond here – but, in general, what we're talking about is just the ability to learn how to bring ourselves back down in those moments when we're feeling really strong emotions…and also, to have some level of control around how we behave in those moments also.
Self-regulation is a skill that we want our kids to learn typically, right? We were like, 'We hope one day they'll be able to learn how to do this on their own.' But again, perfection's not the goal. It's not like they're going to just be robot people that are never, you know, emotionally reactive, again – but we do want to teach them this, this skill.
So, one of the things-- One of the kind of errors that I see often is that people feel like they can just only teach this to their kids; what I mean by that is like, maybe they send their kids to therapy and their kid learned through a therapist – or maybe they read them books or tell them about it and they're like, 'This is the skill of self-regulation…now, I've given you this tool…now you can use this tool'. But human beings are a little bit more complex than that.
And self-regulation is actually taught through a process called co-regulation. So, obviously, there is going to still be some teaching moments, and we're going to talk about that too. But the bulk of self-regulation is taught through co-regulation first, which is being connected and attached to an adult that you feel safe and cared for…and that isn't joining in your chaos.
So, maybe your child is, you know, kind of on a scale of 1 to 10…emotionally gotten to the 10 level or maybe even the 11 level. It's us not going to 10 or 11 also. Us staying down low at our baseline and being that calm, safe container and space for them so that they can unwind and lower back down also. So, that's co-regulation.
It can happen in more than just parent-child relationships, but that's what we're talking about. And typically, co-regulation…in this process, there's one person that is doing a little bit more of the heavy lifting of, you know, maintaining their emotions and kind of lowering that down for themselves so that they can help their child.
In this situation we're talking about the parents being that one that's doing that heavy-lifting.
Self-regulation Vs. Co-regulation
So, another kind of error that I see when it comes to regulation and teaching regulation is that parents think that their children should have developed the skill of self-regulation at a younger age than is actually developmentally appropriate.
So, a lot of the information that I'm going to be sharing with you today is going to come from a brief that was done by OPRE, and I found it in like the U.S Department of Health and Safety; and they're talking about co-regulation from birth to adulthood. You can read the whole thing if you're really interested in that.
But basically, they have this graph of co-regulation…it's called the balance of self-regulation and co-regulation. So, that means like their ability to regulate themselves versus us having to kind of be there with them, helping them co-regulate.
So, infant and toddler when they're born, which probably doesn't come as a surprise to you at all, they need us to co-regulate them pretty much all the time – and not just emotionally, but all the things, right?
Even like their temp, their body temperature…we hold them to keep them warm, we feed them, we help them sleep. Like they're really dependent on us for pretty much all areas of their life. And so, we're keeping them close. We're, you know, taking care of their needs…all of those things.
As they start to age into toddlerhood, almost all of their regulation is going to be co-regulation, almost everything. They're still very immature in their ability to self-regulate. Once they go into preschool age, we are still doing more of the co-regulation than they're doing self-regulation; it's not even 50/50 yet.
Once we get to childhood, it's about 50/50. From what I've read and what I've studied, up until about the age of 12, the parents are doing most of the heavy-lifting when it comes to co-regulation and the child isn't doing a lot of it by themselves, so far.
By the time they're a youth, a young adult, adolescent, that kind of age, they're going to be doing a lot more of that if they've, you know, developed this skill.
Obviously, there's other determining factors that can make this happen; you know, kids might learn it a little sooner or a little bit later or whatever. If you have a child who's neurodivergent, it's might be on a different trajectory than this.
But that's kind of the goal, so that by the time they're a young adult, almost all of their regulation skills will be able to be self-regulation – and they'll only need minimal co-regulation, which I think we all use, right?
There's still times even as adults where we need somebody to help us through that co-regulation that we do with people, people that we love. So, that's kind of that graph of co-regulation because I'll have a lot of parents that will come in and be like, 'My seven-year-old this, and my four-year-old this, and my 11-year-old this…they can't, you know, they haven't figured this out yet.' That's very normal.
So, if you're listening to this and you're feeling like, 'They haven't figured it out', it's totally, it's totally fine. It's developmentally normal, and we can still teach them. There's no-- It's not too late to teach them these skills. But again, it's taught through co-regulation.
How to use the 80/20 rule to teach emotional regulation to our kids
So, I always think of the 80/20 rule when we're teaching any skill, but especially regulation; in that, 80% of it is going to be through us – us co-regulating with them, us modeling that behavior for them…who we are being in that relationship.
And 20% of it is going to be the teaching and the coaching and the more like overt times.
So, I'll talk about the 20% first. What this might look like is coaching is a lot more of like listening and asking questions. So, maybe we're like asking them some questions and we're kind of allowing them to process, and we're just really listening and we're really understanding.
How to help your child when they’re feeling big emotions
We also might have some conversations with them about that, where we're taking some teaching moments to try and actually teach these skills to them. We might maybe when you have a teen…when my teens took a course on Emotional Intelligence that we kind of went through together, they also might--
It might be reading books; so maybe when your child is little, it's going to be reading little like board books…like The Color Monster is a really good one. There's lots of emotional intelligence books; you can Google that and find loads there, but reading them books or stories, play, all those are great ways of teaching emotional regulation also.
When it comes to practicing it, what you can do…when my kids were younger, I came up with this list of like, these are all the different ways that we can regulate.
I mean, I didn't explain it to them that way. I don't remember what the words are that I used, but I just said, "You know, when you're feeling really strong emotions, sometimes you kind of flip your lid, right?"
And I talked to them just about basic brain stuff happening in their brain. And I said, "There's some things that can help you feel better in those times and they're going to be different for you than maybe they are for me, but let's practice some things."
So, we printed off this page and we pasted it on the wall, and it was like looking at one of those 'calm down' jars – you know, where you put the glitter and funky things in it, and it, kind of, it’s liquidy and you flip it over and you just stare at it – and you kind of be mindful in that moment.
Another one might be breathing. It might be playing outside. It might be it might be squeezing your hands really, really tight, and then kind of loosening them. It could be ripping up paper. There's so many ideas that you can find online of ways to self-regulate.
So, in these moments, it can be helpful to practice these. So, what we did was we got together and we kind of practiced a couple different skills. We picked a couple different ones that we felt like would feel good in that moment.
And the act of practicing them together helps them to have that muscle memory so when they're actually feeling that intense emotion, they might go back and remember that.
The purpose of co-regulation in fostering healthy self-regulation
Now, one thing that I hear from people is like, 'But they didn't use it, I kept trying to give them these tools and like they wouldn't breathe and they wouldn't like squeeze their stress ball and they wouldn't jump on the trampoline or whatever…they were just too emotional.'
I like to think of things like in emotions as the zones. So, I call it Red Zone, Yellow Zone, and Green Zone. And Red Zone to me is just like really high in emotions, really feeling strongly about things. Yellow is just like more of that mild irritation, frustration. And green would be like calm, peaceful, feeling, very regulated and very, very baseline.
So, thinking in that way, when your child's in their Red Zone and they're high emotions, they're going to be low in logic. I think of it as a teeter-totter. So, when the teeter-totter part is high, that's emotions…the logic part is low.
So, even if you taught them that tool, and maybe you've even practiced it before, that might be entirely out the window. They might not have any access to that part of their brain when they're feeling such strong emotions.
So, don't feel like something has gone wrong because they're not accessing these tools. A lot of us have a hard time in our Red Zone accessing the tools that we could, in other areas of our life. So, don't worry about that.
But in those moments, that's when co-regulation is so helpful, right? Is when we're able to just keep ourselves calm and keep ourselves relaxed that we're able to help them come down to that place as well.
So, the 20% includes practicing, teaching, coaching, books, courses, conversations, stuff like that. And the 80%, which I think is the more important part, consists of a couple things. One of them is to make sure that they feel safe and secure and cared for.
How boundaries help in developing self-regulation
I'm going to talk for a minute about boundaries. Boundaries means having like a basic rule or a basic kind of ideology that you want to have in your home.
So, I explain it to my clients as like; I have a home, and I have a yard around my home, and I have a fence around my yard – and that fence shows like where my house is and where other people's house is, and it's going to help me feel safe and it's going to help my kids feel safe…like, this is ours, right?
So, that's kind of what that personal boundary is; this is me, this is who I am, this is my space, this is, you know – this is my boundary around this. So, when I talk to my clients about it, I encourage them not to have lots of different boundaries, right?
Like to have, like, you can't draw here and you can't color here, and you have to eat here, and you have to do this and you have to go to bed at this time, and you have to--
Like when there's loads of rules in our house, that's just a lot of opportunities for our kids to fail – when there's less rules and less expectations but we still need some, obviously.
There is going to be more opportunity for them not to fail – for them to feel good about how they're feeling, how they're doing…but they still need to have that sense of personal, emotional, and physical safety; and that comes through boundaries.
So, for instance, routine going to bed at the same time every evening. Maybe it's, you know, not hitting each other when we're mad – or not screaming and yelling and calling people names when we're mad.
And when I say this, I don't mean that this means now that you've stated the boundary that your kids are going to comply, this is like a lifelong process of them learning.
So, don't feel like just because you have this boundary that it's actually going to be listened to right away, but it's just continuously teaching them that.
So, sometimes people mistake conscious or connected parenting for like no boundaries, like lacking boundaries at all and just letting your kids do whatever you want; that actually is just as harmful for the relationship as it is to be really authoritarian.
So, we want to be in the center space here where we're still going to be having boundaries, our focus is going to be relationship, but there is boundaries so that they feel safe and secure.
How unconditional love boosts self-regulation in our kids
Another core aspect of this is unconditional love. And what I mean by that is not only giving them love when they are behaving, when they're listening, when they're being "good", when their room is clean, when they're being quiet, when they're not freaking out and yelling, right?
In those moments, it's a lot easier to love them and to have that healthy relationship with them. But it might be a little bit more challenging for us when they're not being that way – when they're at the playground fighting with somebody…or when they're a teenager and you find out that they're lying, or that they snuck their phone when they weren't supposed to or whatever.
It's in those moments, how we show up is so impactful. How we choose to show up when they're at their worst is the most impactful part of our relationship; that's what they're going to remember.
And so, in that moment when we can just show them that love and that kindness and that connection, even though they might be showing up at their worst, that helps them know that we're the best place for them to have a bad day, that we're a safe space for them no matter what; and that's what's going to be so helpful in them feeling like we have that warm and connected relationship.
So, based on the premise that, 'Okay, now we have this warm and connected relationship, which again does not mean perfection, it does not mean that we do this all of the time,' there's going to be a lot of redos and apologies and making mistakes and trying again on our part as well, and that's fine.
How modelling self-regulation impacts our kids positively
But the next thing is to model this, to model this behavior. And what I mean by that is, if my kid is yelling and I yell at them to stop yelling, I'm teaching them that when I'm angry, we yell, right?
Like, that's what I'm actually teaching them, is that skill over time…when I'm mad, I yell – it doesn't matter what I'm yelling and what I'm saying, but that's the feedback that they're getting from me.
So, if we want the opposite of that, if we want them to know, 'Okay, so it's okay to feel anger, it's okay to feel frustration and irritation and sadness and shame and all of those emotions are totally okay', but we also want to learn how to control our response, our reaction to them.
We want to make sure that we have some control over that so we're not just punching and hitting and yelling people all the time, whenever we're mad. So, how we teach them that is through how we respond when we are feeling upset, and how we respond when they're feeling upset.
Our brain loves to match emotions. So, when our kids are feeling those strong emotions, our brain wants to feel those really strong emotions too; and it's going to go right up to that.
And then both of us aren't going to be able to able to help, right? That co-regulation is not going to, not going to happen. So, what we want to do is just try to stay in that calm and, you know, that Green Zone for ourselves so that we can help them come back down. There's no timeframe for that.
If you have a child who's neurodivergent or who's younger, who hasn't learned these skills, or who's just feeling a really intense emotion at that time…it might take a long time, it might not take just like 5 or 10 or 15 minutes.
They might have to feel that frustration for a long time, and kind of move through that. And if you are feeling like they're way too emotional or you are way too emotional to help, sometimes I just like step away and then come back again.
Or sometimes I just put my hand on my heart and I just breathe myself; I just focus on my own self-regulation, I don't focus on trying to do anything for them. I just try to focus on me taking really deep breaths in, and slow long deep breaths out, holding down at the base there to just extend that exhale a little bit longer than my inhale.
Breath is my most easy go-to way of regulation because I can bring it anywhere with me; I don't have to like bring music or have like a stress ball, we just always have it with us. And I think it's just so effective.
So, for me, in that moment, it might look like just me regulating myself – me bringing myself back down from my own red to yellow. And again, red doesn't mean that I'm going to be yelling and screaming.
Red could still just mean like shut down and withdraw from me; it depends how you respond to those big emotions. So, in those moments, helping us to bring our own selves down and allowing them that space to bring themselves back down.
And what you'll notice is they kind of have this push-pull energy where they want you to be close, but they also want to push you away at the same time; this is what I've noticed.
And so, just my presence there without saying anything can be really soothing for them so that they know that I'm there, but I'm not trying to say anything or do anything because they might, especially with a highly sensitive kid, it might kind of trigger them even more.
So, I'm just going to remain there. I'm going to remain constant; maybe it means that I'm outside the room. Maybe I come in, every once in a while, just to check on them and to see, you know, how they're doing.
And again, this isn't a timeout, like they're not in their room because I told them to go in their room because that's where they have to be – this is me just allowing them to have their space.
And a lot of times for my kids, it is like they just want their own alone time. Like, they just want to go and calm down in their room by themselves, but they'd want to make sure that I'm still there and I'm still present.
How instinct and intuition help our kids to self-regulate
I think one key aspect of this too is going back to instinct and intuition. The way that I handle it might be totally different than the way that you handle it, but we all have an amazing way that we can handle it.
And when we can bring ourselves back into that forward-thinking, higher logical brain – and calm ourselves down, we'll be able to access those creative solutions that will be more effective for us and for our kids.
That's why little like catchphrases or like specific actions don't always work for us because it just doesn't really vibe with us. It's not-- It's not something that's helpful for us or for our kids, but we can dig into what would be helpful in this moment from that calm and logical brain.
How to model self-regulation to our kids when feeling triggered
All right, the last thing that I want to mention is if you are feeling triggered-- and again, triggered can be like shut down and withdraw. Triggered can be people-pleasing, like trying to make everybody in this situation feel better triggered, can be feeling reactive and kind of exploding or even just not even exploding, but just like stern tone or a little bit more shut off in that way, not really listening to understand…that's what I call feeling triggered.
So, in those moments we're like, 'Well, how do we model this if I'm feeling triggered?' And there's two different areas that I work on with my clients, and one is what I call Band-Aids.
And Band-Aids are these kinds of things; recognizing our zones and finding things that help us go from red to green – or red to yellow, and yellow to green. Finding lists of regulation activities like deep breaths and meditation or yoga or going for a walk or squishing a squeeze ball…like all of those things that we're teaching our kids can work for us as well.
And that's what I call Band-Aids; and I call them Band-Aids because if you're bleeding, you need a Band-Aid – you need to like wrap it up with something, right? You might need a big Band-Aid, who knows what you're going to need in that moment – but you'll figure it out.
You'll figure out what you need in that moment and you're going to, you're going to wrap that wound. But we also want to be digging into secondly triggers. Why is that wound there in the first place? Like, what bothered me so much about that?
So, if something kind of bothers me, I'm going to feel a little bit irritated or a little bit annoyed – or maybe I'm feeling a little bit dysregulated myself. It's not going to-- It's not going to be so big.
I wouldn't call that being in my Red Zone; that would be more of like my yellow. But if something immediately, you know, triggers me and I go right into my Red Zone – some way that my children behave or something that they are doing or not doing that's bothering me, what I want to dig into is; why is that such a trigger for me? What about that behavior bothered me so much?
And when I ask myself those questions, that's when I can really dig into cleaning out that wound and healing that wound; some people call it inner child healing. I think of it more as reparenting or self-mothering; it's digging up those beliefs that we have that have maybe come to us since our own childhood that we haven't healed so far.
I'm going to give you a quick example of this; I was working with a client recently who was feeling this way and she was like, 'I don't know what the trigger is, I think I'm just tired.' And definitely can be just like being tired or hormonal also, but sometimes there's something deeper.
So, as we started to question this and like, what about it bothered you and, you know, what's underneath that? What we found was an underlying belief there was, it's not okay to ever lose it. It's not okay to ever lose my temper.
And feeling a lot of shame whenever the emotion of anger comes up. Almost like the belief is like that anger is not okay, that anger is wrong. Now, if that's one of your underlying beliefs, that deep down once you dig into that trigger – if that's one of your wounds, that's going to be really hard for you. Because as humans, we feel anger.
Anger is an emotion that everyone is going to feel at some point. And anger is not a problem. The emotion's not a problem. But oftentimes, we've had the feedback throughout our lives that it is. So, it would be digging through that, and challenging that idea, and doing the healing there that's necessary.
So, that's what I have to say about triggers. I think that that's the work that you might do with a therapist or with a counselor or with a coach…is uncovering those because it can be hard to see it from the inside, to see it yourselves.
And also, as you're doing this process, remember everybody needs Band-Aids; Band-Aids are needed, and they're necessary. So, figure out the Band-Aids that work for you and use them, and focus more on that modeling and more of that – focusing inwards and helping your body to regulate in those moments. Whatever you can do to do that, that will help your child the most.
Thanks for being here today – and if there's anything you want to hear about on the podcast, if there's a topic or a question or a parenting challenge you're going through right now, I would love to help you through that. So, let me know.
Thanks for listening. If you'd like to help spread this work to the world, share this episode on social media and tag me – send it to a friend, or leave a quick rating and review below so more people can find me. If you'd like more guidance on your own parenting journey, reach out.
Make sure that you take a minute to check out Parent School. It's enrolling August 8th, and we start August 15th and go until mid-December. It's going to be an awesome program. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out.