Co-Regulation and Children

How Your Emotion Can Support Your Child’s Growth

Co-regulation can be described as someone borrowing another human’s calm nervous system in times of distress. Given that children look to stable caregivers in responding to distress, the concept of co-regulation is extremely beneficial when working with kids. Not only is it beneficial, but children and adults each have complex and powerful nervous systems that were created to help us communicate with one another! At Decade2Connect, we utilize co-regulation in therapeutic approach and coach parents in doing the same.

Parents can, and often do, help their child without realizing it. For example, when a child is anxious about monsters or afraid of the dark, their parent’s calming presence can silently communicate safety. Why is this? Because even though their attachment figure is experiencing the same stressor, they’re seeing a relaxed response. This communication can transpire without any verbal recognition and can be conveyed through scent, body posture, breathing, and pupil dilation.

Children learn best through observation, which makes modeling behavior that much more valuable. When your child watches you respond to stress with helping coping techniques, such as deep breathing, taking a moment to yourself, or even closing your eyes for a second, they take note. Your actions teach them how to cope with their own distress. By practicing co-regulation you’ll see your child observe your behaviors – and in time, adopt them as their own.

As parents, it’s easy to worry about saying “the right thing” to your child. Especially in times of distress, every word feels like it carries weight. And while that’s true, the process of co-regulating often happens without any dialogue. Trust in your child’s ability to pick up on the environment around them as you simply become aware of the environment you’re contributing to. While you maintain intentionality in your emotional regulation, you’ll see the learning naturally take place on its own.

Co-regulating can be thought of as the practice of being a gentle guide moving children towards the ability to soothe and manage challenging emotions. As your child begins to navigate their emotions, know that they’re paying attention to you. One of the most powerful parenting tools is through the power of example. 

If your child is having trouble with emotional regulation, connect with Decade2Connect to receive the family support your family needs.

Our Intensive Outpatient Program is in-network with United!