How your childhood affects your parenting

If you have been with Play Therapy Connection for a while, you may be familiar with the term “co-regulation.” This means as a parent/caregiver, you let your child ‘borrow’ your nervous system in order for them to move from dysregulation back to regulation (over and over and over again!) Sounds fairly simple in theory but, as anyone who has cared for a child knows, it is often much more complicated in practice. It can be very challenging to provide coregulation for your child when their emotions or behavior bring up complex and sometimes overwhelming internal experiences. One tip for increasing your capacity for self-regulation when your child is struggling is to look back into your own history and consider how your caregivers or other attachment figures responded to the same emotion or behavior when you were a child. If you’re feeling especially triggered by a particular emotion or behavior your child is displaying, it may be because you were not fully ‘allowed’ to experience that state when you were young. For example, if you feel easily overwhelmed by your child crying, consider how your own caregivers responded when you cried as a child. If they became angry, anxious, ignored or minimized your experience, it is likely that you will feel challenged when your child experiences something similar. You may have internalized messages from your own caregivers around which emotions are acceptable or not, as well as how they should/should not be expressed. Think of how you would have liked your caregivers to respond when you were dysregulated as a child…what would have made you feel safe, seen and understood? This can give you some insight into what a co-regulating interaction could look, feel, and sound like between you and your child. If you’re interested in learning more about how your childhood relationships with your caregivers influences your relationship with your child, I recommend “The Power of Showing Up” by Dan Siegel, M.D., and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D. -Ashley Sutherland, MA, LCSW & Certified Synergetic Play Therapist If you want to learn more about this idea or need help with parenthood challenges, please reach out to us here.