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How to Model Co-Regulation

We’ve all been there! Your child is upset he can’t eat ice cream for dinner. Your dog peed on the rug. Your boss just called you last minute, letting you know a report is due at 8am the next morning. You just learned that your favorite heirloom from your grandparents was broken. You are about to lose it and your kids are watching.

Lindsey Boland provides step-by-step instructions on how to handle activation in your nervous system (aka being triggered or upset about something and moving outside your window of tolerance), modeling co-regulation and repairing any missteps along the way.

FIRST:

Take a deep breath. Pause

SECOND:

Name what you are experiencing. “I notice that my heart is beating fast and my head hurts.”

If the child is also giving clues that they are outside their window of tolerance you could also mention that you notice they seem to be frustrated/upset/angry, etc and say, “this is hard for both of us.” Empathize with the emotion.

THIRD:

Invite your child to join you in the regulation activity. “I’m going to take a second and take some deep breaths (massage my arms, sway back and forth, get some water, Etc).” Maybe they don’t join but simply watch you. Children learn by modeling so if this is repeated over time, they will begin to follow.

FOURTH:

Verbalize what feels different following this action. You could say “phew, I feel so much better and more connected to myself.” See if your child notices anything different. If you are still feeling escalated, try something different. “Wow, I’m still feeling really worried and overwhelmed. I know this because my heart is beating out of my chest. I’m going to try____”

*If it’s after the fact and you’ve already been activated outside your window of tolerance, don’t beat yourself up. Try this (adjust to make it appropriate for developmental age):

“I really don’t like how I responded to you/that situation before. I’m still learning how to control myself when I’m ___. Sometimes, I get upset when you are upset or when ___ happens. We all have to practice staying regulated and helping ourselves when we feel ___, even parents. I’m sorry.”

FIFTH:

Engage in a conversation about what activities/tools are helpful or not helpful. You could do any type of relationship ritual or co-regulation practice together.

It’s never too late to repair a relationship. Being authentic and apologizing as a parent is key! You are creating an emotionally safe place where you and your family can thrive.

Will this work every single time the first time? No. Mindfulness and becoming attuned to what your body needs takes a lot of practice and should be done in a way that feels right and safe for your family.

Check out Lindsey’s Instagram page full of useful parenting and child-development posts: @lindseybolandllc 

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