Self-regulation of emotions and behaviors is what helps adults be happy and healthy, but how does one obtain this skill? Co-regulation is a process used to regulate emotions from a caregiver.

Caregivers are core providers for emotional comfort, feelings of safety, and meeting the emotional needs in the infancy stage. Babies use crying as a way to communicate with parents that they are in need of attention. As the children grow and develop skills like language, parents and children work to regulate feelings and behaviors together. Parents at this time can use coaching as a way to help their children mentally work through feelings. For example, a child who lost at a board game may need extra support to regulate their feelings and give the winner a high-five. The final stage of co-regulation is when the child is capable of regulating feelings, but needs/desires caregiver support. A parent may provide support to their teenager during a break up by checking in with their child and encouraging healthy coping skills.

Co-regulation is not an easy skill. It takes time, dedication, and being in sync with your child. It is being involved and showing up for the parent-child relationship during good times and bad.

Below are some general guidelines of how to co-regulate with your child:

  1. The first and most important step of co-regulating with a child is making sure that the caregiver is first calm, because it may be hard to help someone else regulate their emotions if ours are not in check.
  2. Listen, accept, and acknowledge your child’s feelings. They are trying to understand and make sense of their own feelings. If caregivers model acceptance of feelings for their children, the child will be more likely to accept their own emotions.
  3. Give the feeling words. Dr. Dan Siegel stated, “If you can name it, you can tame it.” When we put words to our experiences we are less likely to need to show how we feel through our actions. Getting a fun feelings chart can be helpful! Hop on the Google and find your favorite.
  4. Acknowledge that feelings are okay, but behavior needs limits. As a caregiver, your job is to provide structure to the behaviors.
  5. FINALLY…we can look at problem-solving. Let the child take the lead and use those coaching skills. I know it takes a long time to get to this step. Going through all of the steps will make the experience more meaningful and yield longer lasting results to your child, and strengthen the caregiver-child relationship.

Have you tried these skills?  How did they help?  We would love to hear your feedback.



Mom Power Curriculum

Co-Regulation From Birth Through Young Adulthood: A Practice Brief

Perspectives Therapy Services is a multi-site mental and relationship health practice with clinic locations in Brighton, Lansing, Highland, Fenton and New Hudson, Michigan. Our clinical teams include experienced, compassionate and creative therapists with backgrounds in psychology, marriage and family therapy, professional counseling, and social work. Our practice prides itself on providing extraordinary care. We offer a customized matching process to prospective clients whereby an intake specialist carefully assesses which of our providers would be the very best fit for the incoming client. We treat a wide range of concerns that impact a person's mental health including depression, anxiety, relationship problems, grief, low self-worth, life transitions, and childhood and adolescent difficulties.