We’ve talked about the importance of being calm, alert and nourished to self-regulation (see spark* News March, June, July and August 2018 and January 2019). We all can regulate our behavior, thinking and emotions when we’re rested and feeling well.
Self-regulation simply isn’t going to happen all the time. We’re people, not robots. So what can children do when they find themselves in the eye of the storm. What can they do when they’re feeling frustrated, frightened, or angry? How can we help them regain a sense of calm and equilibrium? When they’re calm again, they can make better choices.
We can try to reduce the amount of stress, anxiety, frustration, etc. children experience. That’s not always realistic. Stress happens. We have to prepare them for dealing with more difficult times.
There are four main ways to help children self-regulate more effectively in tough situations. They include:
- Distracting themselves. This involves thinking about something pleasant.
- Dismissing the source of concern. This means getting rid of the thing that’s causing distress.
- Displacing the concern. The child decides to put the problem or worry away until another time.
- Distancing themselves from the situation. This means stepping away from the problem mentally and looking at it like an outsider.
Next Monday through Thursday, we’ll go through each strategy and how to introduce and practice it.
Generally, it’s best to teach the strategies when the children are calm and rested. Choose a quiet time and space to introduce and to practice each one. But, be careful about how you present the idea. You don’t want to remind children about a worry (for example, “You remember when that big dog growled at you?”).
Be sure to use these strategies yourself. They’re effective for everyone.