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Emotional Regulation for Children

I feel out of my depth, I can't engage my child ALL of the time, then we both end up angry or upset. How am I going to survive another term of remote learning AND manage any work myself?

Recently there have been many disruptions and uncertainties to 'normal' day to day living. Covid 19 has brought with it many unexpected changes to all homes in Australia and around the world.

For parents, the stress levels have understandably risen at some point with all these changes. It is hard to balance many of the challenges that have arisen and maintain many of the same responsibilities all at the same time. It is completely understandable and expected to feel that balancing everything is a difficult and that everything feels too much to hold.

For children, they can be aware of the stress levels changing for parents with no or very little understanding why. When things are unknown to children, they seek out their 'safety'. As a parent, you are the 'safety' they seek.

Children aware of the changes in parent stress levels will often display 'clingy' behaviour, regression in self-reliant behaviours such as toileting, getting dressed, you may notice resilience and emotional regulation has also regressed. This is all 'normal' to a point.

Some of the activities here can help regulate your child's nervous system and states of dysregulation they experience, and your own too.

Your child learns from you, if you can model some of these activities or begin them sometimes, they are likely to engage more fully.

 

Breathing Purposefully and Regulation for children

You and your child can practice your deep breathing through play using basic home supplies. Both activities you can discuss how our breathing makes our bodies feel. "If we do really quick, little breaths, how does it make your bellies/shoulders/chest feel?" "What about if we did long slow breaths, does your belly/shoulder/chest feel the same?" "I noticed the long, big breaths made my body feel calmer..."

Reflecting your experiences helps children to learn.

This short video is for creating the racing caterpillars breathing activity.

You will need:

  • thick paper/colour card
  • a straw
  • pencils or markers to decorate.

Breathing is understood and easier to focus on for children when they can “see" it through objects moving.

 

Driving Pom Poms

Another breathing activity is 'Driving Pom Poms'.

You will need:

  • pom poms, can be made from wool, or the craft ones pictured below.
  • a straw
  • paper and pencils/markers to draw a start line, finish line, maze or a racetrack or low tact tape to put on the floor.

Using the straw, they can "drive" the pom pom through the track or around obstacles. Your children may choose to add blocks, Lego or Duplo buildings to create bridges, tunnels or mazes. this is an activity that they can keep expanding with their imagination.

 

Hug, Squish, Play based activities to integrate more Squeeze, Pull and Push for Regulation

"There is nothing to do, we are stuck at home."

 

Try change your narrative: For a child there are many more places they can access. There is outdoor, indoor, the jungle, the fire station, all the way to the moon....

Often in seeking regulation, children rock, bounce, and fidget. When our bodies become dysregulated seeking proprioception feedback is one way our brain and central nervous system can begin to regulate; that is feel less tense, more focused, or more relaxed.

Proprioception is the sense that tells the body where it is in space. ways to regulate the nervous system for you and your child are: Play tug of war. You may be able to safely set up a single person tug of war on a tree or outdoor play equipment at home. Using pillows, couch cushions and a blanket, assist your child to safely turn them into a burger or a burrito-you can apply a little pressure, or roll them back and forward. Do a couple of hallway laps using wheelbarrow walking Do wall push-ups (isometrics), you can trace your hands or children's hands, decorate, cut out and stick on the walls for a reminder and a focus point, sit together for a hug wrestle, gently and safely use the trampoline as a place to lay, read a book, tell stories.

Your child can move freely and bounce Dance, sing, wiggle. Try animal yoga, where poses imitate animals play dress-ups, it helps move the joints providing proprioception feedback and encourages self-care skills.