Self-Regulation in Children

Discovering how to manage our emotions is a key skill that evolves as we grow. Even very young children encounter moments that challenge these skills, and it's important for them to understand how to enhance their ability to handle situations with a sense of control. For example, they can learn to react thoughtfully to disappointments rather than getting upset, or seek assistance when stressed instead of feeling overwhelmed.

So, what can we do to support this in our children? Dawn, one of our early childhood specialists, shares 4 key pieces of advice

  • Provide a Responsive Relationship

    This involves showing them self-calming strategies and providing physical and emotional comfort when your child is showing signs of stress. For example, you could give them a strong hug or get them to take 3 deep breaths. Hold your finger out in front of them and ask them to imagine they are smelling a flower. This will prompt them to take a deep breath in through their nose. Then ask them to blow out through their mouth, as if they are blowing out a candle.

  • Provide Structure

    Provide consistent routines as much as possible, for example, regular mealtimes and consistent bath time and bedtime routines. Think about how you feel when something happens that you’re not expecting! Routines can help children learn what to expect, which makes it easier for them to feel comfortable.
  • Teach Self-Regulation Skills

    Apply age-appropriate rules and boundaries and use positive behaviour management strategies. For example, when they are doing the right thing, such as tidying their toys or helping a friend, let them know that you’ve noticed, and you are proud of them.

  • Model Targeted Self-Regulation Skills

    It’s important to model skills such as waiting, problem-solving, keeping calm or calming down, and expressing emotion. Your child will learn from what you show them. For example, if they interrupt a conversation, don't stop your conversation to attend to their needs. Instead, tell them that they will need to wait until you’ve finished.