5 Ways To Help A Child Self-Regulate

Until recently I never heard of the term 'self-regulation', it was only when we discovered my daughter struggled with some aspects of life that we were opened to a whole new world and learned to understand her and her abilities a little more. 

Self-regulation can be defined in many ways but mostly a child lacking self-regulatory skills does not have the ability to focus his or her attention or to control their emotions. Children who lack self-regulation skills often struggle to manage the way they think, their behaviour and body movement when faced with tough situations.

Self-regulation is an essential aspect of overall emotional intelligence but it doesn't have an arriving point in children's development - sometimes children need interventions to help them make better decisions through a variety of sources and strategies, such as Occupational Therapy.

For kids, self-regulation is one of the most vital skills they need to learn in order to be successful in learning and in later life, so here are some tried and tested ways you can help a child self regulate at home. 

⦁ Show empathy when they are struggling to communicate with you. The need to be heard and understood is vital to a child's overall needs - take some time to empathize with them which can help them recognise their struggles, whatever they may be.

⦁ Standing tall over them may make them feel weak or overwhelmed. Create a safe space for them by getting down to their level. If that means sitting or lying on the floor -  so be it. Unlike their peers, children lacking self-regulation skills need more time to process things and so take it as a reminder to slow down and be present. 

⦁ No matter their abilities, all children need unstructured play but more so those who lack self-regulation skills. Give them lots of independent play both indoors and outdoors to explore and take charge of their own experiences without having to rely on others. Independent play is vital for teaching kids to be self-reliant, imaginative and most of all, creative. 

⦁ Get in tune with their emotions. Help reduce stressful moments and meltdowns by trying to understand why your child is feeling emotional in the first place. It will help your child feel like they are being understood and heard. You can help your child feel more in control by helping to develop simple coping skills such as giving words to feelings, finding your child's triggers and sticking to what they know. 

⦁ Most importantly, set goals in order to have something to work towards. For example, give them plenty of opportunities to make choices. Not only will it give them a sense of power, but it will also help them practice much-needed decision-making skills which will benefit them for years to come. 

Kellie Kearney

Kellie Kearney is a Dublin mammy of five kids aged newborn right up to nine. She loves coffee, cloth nappies, travel and sharing her every day true to life family moments on Instagram.

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