Close your eyes and picture this:
Your 2 year old is home, running around per usual. He/she notices that their sibling is playing with a toy that sparks their interest. Your 2 year old goes and snatches the toy screaming "this is mine!" As they proceed to run with the toy, they miss a step and fumble. Not only did they just lose the ball, but now they are hurting. All you hear is screams.....
Does this sound familiar? This seems like an everyday occurrence at my home. Accidents and emotional breakdowns happening left and right, with a toddler whose only response is to cry, and a tween that has a slight attitude problem. Well I am here to tell you that we can decrease breakdowns by understanding our role in developing your child's self-regulation skills.
What is Self-Regulation?
Before I write a novel, I will simplify all that self regulation encompasses. Self-regulation is the process that your child goes through that gives them the ability to control their behaviors and emotions. Children develop at different rates, this is also true for self-regulation. It is important to understand that self-regulation does not occur in isolation. Physical behaviors such as needing to be rocked, thumb sucking, swaddled, feeding, etc.; are all driven by getting an specific need met. These are early signs of self-regulation. Emotional regulation is a child's discovery of how to manage their emotions to socialize with peers and adults. This is exhibited by learning how to share, throwing tantrums, following the rules, and saying one's needs. Demanding "this is mine!". Self-regulation involves using tools to help work and process challenging moments. Those same tools require thoughtful planning by both parent and child.
Why is this important?
Self-regulation is the foundation of early childhood development. It's the seed planted to assist adults with managing emotions, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. If we give children the ability to learn strategies to stay calm in stressful situations. As they begin to grow into adults they will continue to use the same habits of using effective coping skills. Hence, self-regulation works as a bridge. During the preschool years children have to learn several new concepts. This includes but not limited to learning how to sit, listen, share, follow directions, and rules. This all happens simultaneously and continuously. Not to mention one day children are protected from the world by parents, the next day we are prepping them to face the world on their own (preschool). This idea can be overwhelming for little ones. The more we understand how we can guide our children to self-regulate, the more we can begin to feel comfortable about letting them go off into the world alone...
This week I will be sharing via social media, fun, simple self regulation strategies/games! I will leave you with a few simple ideas here on the site.
Allow your child to consume lots of water. Fueling with water is necessary to keep our nervous system to stay calm.
Lots of sleep. Kids can sleep up to 12-14 hours a day. And they absolutely need it! Lack of sleep makes for a challenging day!
Provide opportunities for free play/outdoor play. Let the energy out. Increase heart rate=more blood flow to the brain= brain power.
Walks... My older daughter when feeling emotional dysregulated just needs a walk for fresh air. As her body begins to increase with happy hormones that by physical activity, she presents as more calm.
Blowing bubbles is the same idea of practicing deep breathing. When you blow bubbles too quickly or too slow, it may cause for a disaster. But if you do it from the belly, at the right tempo, you get the perfect amount. Show kids how to deep breathe by using bubbles. Plus who doesn't like bubbles, lol.
Read books about feelings and that offer sensory stimulation. I love Todd Parr books, he does an amazing job displaying an array of feeling vocabulary. Usbourne children's books offers the use of sensory. "That's not my"...books use textures to stimulate your young reader. Sensory is linked with self-regulation. Offer sensory items to help keep your child regulated.
Music! Again this is linked with sensory play. Music is known to be something that allows you to stay relaxed. It is also an opportunity for your child to use both sides of their brain!
I would like to challenge you to allow your child during the next meltdown to do one of these as a way to redirect a challenging behavior. Take advantage of moments that provide you with an opportunity to teach. When you put your child in time out, offer bubbles; can't get a child to share, read a book about sharing. That 2 year old we discussed earlier was able to get up, come to mommy, and ask for a simple hug. The perfect coping strategy to help self regulate :-)