The Parenting Coach Podcast with Crystal

S06|05 - Emotional Regulation and Co-Regulation

Mar 13, 2023

One of the most common topics that come up around kids is emotional reactivity- both in us and in our kids. This episode dives into how to develop healthy regulation tactics for both us and our kids… using tools that work. If conscious parenting seems difficult when your kid (or you) melts down- this episode will be super supportive for you.

On this episode we talk about:

  • What development looks like when it comes to emotions
  • What self-regulation is and how we learn how to do it
  • What co-regulation actually looks like (and what it doesn’t)
  • Learn more about the science of emotions from and
  • What tools we can use for us to feel our feelings, and naturally help our kids too
  • Coping skills deck over HERE
  • My book and the regulation techniques in it:


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 parenting challenges and helps you be the guide to 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 and become a parenting expert, that’s what I’m here for.

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Episode Transcript

Crystal The Parenting Coach: 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 and get taught, get on the job training, or have mentors to help you, but 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 I use life coaching tools, emotional wellness tools, and 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, we will send 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. 


Don't forget to check out my new mindset journal for parents at, which will help you to parent calm, confident children that you love to be around.


Hi, welcome to the podcast today, Emotional Regulation and Co-Regulation


Misconceptions about Emotional Regulation, Self-Regulation, and Co-Regulation

One of the most common questions that I get asked / common challenges that I see in my clients and myself is; how to help our children regulate, how to help ourselves regulate, what the difference between regulation and co-regulation and all of that is.

I've talked about this on a few episodes, and I'm going to refer back to a couple of those episodes if you'd like to go and dig into more of these topics that I'm going to dig into today. 

But I see so many misconceptions around emotional regulation; and I just want to clear up a few of those and give you some tools that will be really supportive. 

The biggest misconception that I see-- Well, actually, I shouldn't say the biggest; there's a few. 


1. Children should be able to regulate at a much younger age

One is that children should be able to regulate at a much younger age than we feel like they should. At about ages five through seven, there's a lot of emotional maturation happening in the brain. 

If you want to learn more about the details and specifics of that, I would read Gordon Neufeld's book, Hold on to Your Kids – or Dr. Deborah MacNamara's book, Rest, Play Grow – or go check out their websites; and

But basically, there's a lot of shifts happening in this five-to-seven range, and up until that point, they don't have a lot of ability to regulate on their own. That's where co-regulation comes in. It's more of our responsibility to regulate with them because they don't have the maturation to do it themselves. 

Even after the age of seven, if you have a highly sensitive child, all of these years are probably going to be pushed a little bit back. So, instead, of five to seven, it might be older. 

And also, even if you do have a neurotypical child, the conditions of connection and attachment might not be present for the maturation to be happening at the five to seven age range. 

And even if all of the conditions are right, it can still take a little bit longer; and that doesn't mean that they're always in every situation going to be able to handle things. 

It's just like us as humans, right? We might be able to do something in one situation, but then the next day be like tired or hungry or something happens at work or whatever, and we're not able to deal with the same situation that we had dealt with previously in the same way. 

So, the same thing happens to kids. So, just because they are able to show that they have the skills in one area where maybe at one time they're able to regulate quite well, doesn't mean that they're necessarily going to regulate at different times or all the time; they're still learning and growing. 

I went to a conference years ago and they suggested that up until about the age of 12, they're going to be co-regulating more than they are self-regulating. 

There's also a graph I've mentioned on a few different episodes before, but the graph of co-regulation, you can go Google it, check it out; I think it's the first thing that comes up. And you can kind of see the graph there, how it goes to co-regulation and self-regulation through the lifespan.


What co-regulation actually looks like (and what it doesn’t)

So first of all, what is co-regulation? Co-Regulation, according to, is; co-regulation is an interpersonal process in which participants continuously adjust their interactions in a coordinated pattern to co-create and maintain a positive emotional state

So, it's more than one person, and the onus during co-regulation is going to be on us – the attachment, the primary attachment, the caregiver – because our children when they're in that emotional state, aren't necessarily going to be regulated.

When I think of regulation, I think of; our ability to feel really big emotions, to feel the whole spectrum of the emotional sphere or the emotional ladder, and to be able to feel the depth of that emotion and not get completely overtaken…completely overdone by those emotions so that it's completely controlling our behaviors, and also to be able to move and process through that emotion and bring ourselves back down to a state of peace and calm and content. 

So, that is kind of the definition that I'm working through when I think of emotional regulation is being able to feel the whole spectrum of emotions; it's not being void of emotions. 

I recently was coaching somebody and they mentioned that they felt like they were fairly emotionally mature because they don't feel emotions – because they don't feel the like really sadness or the really happiness, and they're all just kind of neutral all the time. 

Dr. Deborah MacNamara talks about loss of emotions and loss of feelings, so you can go listen to her more when she talks about that on her website. But that is into emotional regulation.

Emotional regulation is able to feel all of the spectrum of emotions and move ourselves back down to that neutral space; and when we're feeling those potent emotions, not having it overtake our behavior. 

So, that's what I speak about when I speak about emotional regulation and co-regulation, and in our responsibility to be the person that co regulates with our child. 


2. We feel like every person should "be able to regulate"

So, another misconception I see beyond ages of when we feel like people should "be able to regulate"; also, if they're not able to regulate, they're just showing you that they can't, they're just showing you that they haven't built that skill yet. 

So, it doesn't really matter what age or stage or development is happening, you can just look at that child and be like, 'Okay, they obviously have not figured out this skill. How can I help them learn this skill?'


Emotional Regulation or Self-Regulation with our kids can be taught easily

Which takes me to the next misconception that I see and is that; emotional regulation or self-regulation with our kids can be taught to them by just talking to them about it, by reading them books, by giving them like a feelings wheel or those like cute little chart with all of the different pictures of humans or emojis where they point and see how they're feeling. 

Or like lists of like, "Here's all the different ways you can calm down, what do you want to do to calm yourself down?" 

That's actually not the bulk of how emotional regulation is taught. Those aren't wrong, and I am going to talk about a couple of those, but the bulk of it is going to be taught through co-regulation. 

Again, on, in this article it said, "An individual learns to self-regulate by first co-regulating with others" – not by first reading a book on emotions, not by first pointing to what emotion they're feeling, not by first using a 'calm down' jar or like a quiet comfy corner that they go to. 

Not that you can't use those things, but just know that that is not how you're teaching emotional regulation. Those can be helpful for sure, but emotional regulation is going to be taught through co-regulation.


Basic things that can be helpful for Emotional Regulation

Before I get into co-regulation and how we can do that with our kids, I will dig in a little bit to those things because they still can be helpful. 

So, you can sometimes see charts where it's like pictures or emojis or whatever of feelings, and you can talk to them about how to name their feelings. 

There's a book called The Color Monster that we used where it would like talk about feelings as in colors, like; I'm feeling red, or I'm feeling yellow or orange, or whatever these feelings are. That can be a helpful way for them to verbalize things. 

You can talk to them about feelings. You can validate their feelings. You can help them come up with words around their feelings. You can even help teach them those coping mechanisms like taking deep breaths or squeezing a stress ball or going out into nature or jumping on a trampoline. 

One caveat is; it's much better to practice those skills when they're in their calm, logical brain so that they have the muscle memory to remember to do it again. But if you try and push those things when they're really agitated and irritated, they're not actually going to be able to have the access to do those tools. So, practice them in their calm, and then you can help them through. 


Okay, so that's all I'm going to say about that. It is not wrong if you're doing that; it is not bad. Definitely keep doing that and keep teaching that, but know that I'm going to say like 99% of the work that you're going to do is actually through co-regulation. 


The science of emotions

So, now, how do we co-regulate? So, co-regulate is me being able to bring myself back down to calm if I'm not already there

And in that, it's my energy that's going to help create the safe space for them to feel comfortable enough for their brains to kind of start to relax; and think of it like a sigh of relief, like ah…that their brain is able to do because our energy is doing it first when you have that calm and connected relationship with your child. 

So, oh, what we often tend to do is when our child is feeling those big emotions, we're like, "Calm down"…or, "It's fine"…or, "Everything's going to be fine"…or whatever. 

But in that moment, we're not necessarily validating their feelings. Validation might be something like, "You seem really grumpy this morning, what's going on? Do you want to talk to me about it?" 

Or, "You seem really agitated about this, you seem really frustrated." 

So, we're still giving them some language, and then we can ask them to talk about it. If they're really irritated, obviously they're not going to want to talk about it, and we can literally just sit there; we don't have to say anything. 

One of the things that I do probably more than anything else, is I just put my hand on my heart and I don't even think so much about them or what's going on for them. 

I go back to me, and I put my hand on my heart; and I take some deep breaths into my nose and out through my mouth and I'm like, "Okay, what's really happening for me? What am I feeling? What's going on inside my body?" 

And as I start to focus on that and breathe, and kind of focus on my breath, and calm and relax myself – even if they're not – that is going to help them over time. 


The other thing is we can't prevent those emotions in our kids, and we can't prevent those emotions in ourselves; and they're not a problem. 

I think we often think that like it's not okay to feel those big feelings; we've often been taught or modeled that when we were younger. And so, I think part of it is just not really knowing what to do with our own feelings, anyways. 

But emotions aren't a problem; they don't need to be fixed – we just need to flow through them. 

It's like, we recently came back from Hawaii; and when you are body surfing or boogie boarding, you kind of jump up and then right before the wave's about to come down, you kind of jump and then you kind of just ride that inside scoopy barrel, part of the wave in. And I think of that as an emotion. We're just going to like jump and hold on for the ride, and we're just going to allow it to just kind of flow through us and push us in to shore as we just feel it.


Another thing I loved as I was reading about this topic from Deborah MacNamara at is emotions are not always expressed in the situations they were created in. I'm going to say that one more time; emotions are not always expressed in the situations they were created in. 

So, you might have a child that is like losing it over something and you're like, "Nothing even happened, everything's totally fine…I don't understand why they're so upset." 

Or you might have a teenager that's really cranky after school, even though it doesn't seem like anything has happened; it's because it may have happened earlier in the day, like a week before. 

Like they're not-- It's not necessarily going to be so obvious where the emotion is coming from. And it might just be kind of like displaced, like, "I'm frustrated over this, but I couldn't necessarily feel my frustration over here, and now I'm really frustrated when I get home from school."


Another thing is that emotions need to be expressed. Emotions need to be processed; they need to be felt. Sometimes we kind of push that down and we feel like, we'll be okay, we just need to kind of forget that they're there or whatever, instead of realizing that we need to sit and just feel them. 

So, a couple of the previous episodes that I talked about, emotions are, I have one on regulating with your child, I have one on Zones, and I have one on Emotions and How To Feel Them. Those are the three episodes that I would suggest if you want to dig more into this. 

But if how we teach emotional regulation to our kids is through co-regulation, then what we need to stop doing is focusing so much on co-regulation and like, how do we do it and how do we teach it? And blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. 

We need to focus on us. We need to focus on what's happening for me. So, when difficult things pop up, how do I handle it? Is my behavior completely overtaken by the emotion that I'm feeling in the moment? 

When I'm feeling strong emotions, how do I handle them? Do I just go eat a bunch or scroll social media or stay up late or yell? 

Or like, what do I do when I'm feeling those big emotions? What does support look like or comfort look like for myself? Do I have healthy coping mechanisms myself? Because like everything else we're teaching our kids, we're teaching it through role modeling the behavior that we want to see in them. 

So, a lot of the work that I do is like 99% of it is like on us. And then like, 'Okay, now let's figure out how this relates to our kids.' 

But the reason 99% of it is on us is because they're going to look towards us to see what's happening, and that is what's going to be teaching them. So, we don't need to focus so much on; how do I sit here and co-regulate with this child, but what's happening for me? 

As they're having their little meltdown, as they're having their frustrations and they're releasing all that frustration, what's happening for me and what am I feeling and why are things feeling so heavy and difficult inside of myself? 

And not even necessarily why, but just allowing myself to be present with those emotions, allowing myself to just sit and feel them. 

I've said this several times on the podcast before, but emotions last 90 seconds; if we actually allow it, if we allow it to be present, they last 90 seconds. 

I had a friend who just recently told me that she found some sort of like a-- You know, how there's feelings, wheels and feelings lists? And this one was like in your body kind of showing a description of like what a body looked like and then had like an outline of a body – and that had different colors and different emotions you feel in different areas of your body. 

And I thought that was really fascinating because every time I help people process their emotions, oftentimes they pick the same color and the same space in their body. 

Like lots of times, shame shows up in your face and your throat and in your stomach. It's usually hot; and it's either like black, gray, orange or red – and orange and red are even more common, I would say. And then it kind of moves on to black. 

Sadness; oftentimes, people will say like blue or black. So, similar colors and similar spaces as I'm helping people kind of move through their emotions. 

And what I mean by that is; when we focus inwards and we ask ourselves things like; if it had a color, what color would it be? Where do I feel like I actually feel it in my body? If I were to describe that feeling, how would I describe that to someone? 

So, that's a way that we can process our emotions too. 


Tiffany Roe's Coping skills deck

Another little shout out I'm going to give is to Tiffany Roe. If you follow her on Instagram, @heytiffanyroe, she has a Coping Skills Deck that you can buy and it just has lots of different coping mechanisms – so, when you're feeling dysregulated yourself, what you can do and what you can practice.


My book and the regulation techniques in it

In my book, Burn This Book: A Mindset Journal for Parents, we also have a list of regulation techniques and tools that you can use in the moment. And again, just like for our kids, it can be helpful for us just to practice in the moment. 

So, the two things I like to practice are; one, becoming more aware of the emotions in my body. So, this would be as I go throughout the day, just noticing; what am I feeling, where am I feeling it? You can name it, if that feels supportive. And if not, you can just kind of describe it. Like, am I feeling really agitated?

I talk about Zones. So, you can even say, "I'm in my Red Zone, my Yellow Zone, my Green Zone." And, what does that physically feel like to be present in my body feeling this way right now? Really get in tune with that body. 

And then secondly, beyond just noticing how I'm doing in my body is finding ways to help me regulate. And so, for me, breath is a really helpful and supportive way to do that; nature, spending time in nature…thought journaling, meditating, things like that.

So, find ways that you can kind of practice getting into your body and allowing that emotion. And the more that you learn the skill yourself of being emotionally aware, the more you will be able to be supportive with your kids because how could we support them and allow that and empathize and have compassion for them when they're feeling those emotions? 

If we're not okay with our own emotions, if our brain is telling us, "This isn't okay, you don't have time to feel this"…or, "This emotion is wrong, you shouldn't be feeling this way"…or whatever it is that our brain is offering us, it's going to be really hard to open up and have the capacity to hold space for their feelings when we can't hold space for our own feelings.


So, focus first on; how can I hold space for my own feelings? How can I open up to my own feelings a little bit more? And then, move on from that to notice that it actually is going to start to become easier and easier to do the same with your child. 


So, if you have any more questions about emotional regulation or co-regulation, let me know. Reach out to me on Instagram and keep doing this work. And remember that 99% of the work is going to be on us internally first; it's not going to be so much with our kids and their behavior. 

And I would love to hear experiences from you as you are doing this work and as you are, especially around regulation, as you're working on your own emotions and processing them and feeling through them, how things are going for you and what kinds of things you notice and changes in your life and in the relationships that you have. 

And not just parenting, but in other areas as well as you learn the skill. Because oftentimes, we weren't taught this; we were taught to shove our emotions down, to push them away, that they weren't okay. 

You know, if you were a male, you were probably taught that you have to be like strong and powerful; and strength means not showing emotions and all of these things. 

So, I hope all of that came through cohesively, and I hope it was helpful for you. And always feel free to reach out.


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.

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