By: Dr. Erica Wollerman
Isn’t parenting fun? One minute everyone is having a great time, and the next, your child could be having an epic meltdown. These moments can be challenging for both you and your child, but understanding and practicing "co-regulation" can make these moments a bit smoother. In this blog, we'll break down what co-regulation is and how it can be a game-changer when your child is going through a meltdown.
Co-regulation is a fancy term for the give-and-take of emotions and behavior between you and your child. It means you, as the parent or caregiver, play a crucial role in helping your kid handle their emotions, especially during tough times like meltdowns. Co-regulation is all about being empathetic, supportive, and creating a nurturing environment to help your child learn how to deal with their feelings.
Cracking the Meltdown Code
Before we jump into the co-regulation stuff, let's get a grip on what meltdowns are and what sets them off. Meltdowns aren't the same as tantrums; they're more like emotional eruptions your child can't control. They happen when your kiddo feels overwhelmed by their emotions. Typical triggers include tiredness, hunger, sensory overload, frustration, and changes in their routine. Recognizing these triggers can help you step in before things go haywire.
The Co-regulation Guide
1. Keep Your Cool: Your emotional state sets the tone for co-regulation. So, when your child is having a meltdown, try to stay calm. Your composure will create a safe space and show them how to regulate their emotions.
2. Show Some Love: Start by recognizing your child's feelings. Say something like, "I see you're really upset right now," or "I get that this is hard for you." Let them know that their feelings are valid and that you're there to support them. Some kids will become more upset upon hearing these words, and that’s okay. Offer some comfort and then simply stay near them in a quiet and calm way, offering support.
3. Comfort with Touch: A reassuring hug or holding their hand can provide a sense of security during a meltdown. Sometimes, physical contact can be super comforting. Also, if your child pushes you away, it is helpful to stay in the vicinity, but not too close.
4. Respect Personal Space: While some kids need cuddles during meltdowns, others may need a bit of space. Respect their preference, but make sure they know you're nearby if they need you.
5. Chill with Calming Techniques: Breathing exercises, mindfulness tricks, or counting together can help your child regain control over their emotions. Guide them through these techniques to help them calm down. My personal favorite is having kids try to blow my hand away. I hold my hand near their mouth and tell them to try and blow my hand down. Then, I act super animated and impressed when they take a deep breath, blow out, and boom, my hand is down!
6. Patience Is Key: Meltdowns take their sweet time. Be patient and be prepared to stick with your child until they've calmed down. Rushing the process can make things worse, so take your time.
Note: If your child, like my son, does not respond well to “co-regulation,” that’s okay! Just try to stay close, but not too close, and say something comforting and kind. Keep your composure and be patient with them. Then, offer a hug once they are calm. Co-regulation is not for every child, and that’s okay :)
Why Co-regulation Rocks
Co-regulation isn't just about helping your child manage emotions; it's also about building a stronger bond with your kiddo. By being there for them during meltdowns, you're teaching them that it's okay to have intense feelings and that they can lean on you for comfort and understanding. This trust and connection will have a lasting, positive impact on their emotional growth.
Meltdowns can be rough, but with the power of co-regulation, you can make them a bit more manageable. Remember, co-regulation is all about staying calm, being empathetic, offering comfort, and using calming techniques. By embracing this approach, you'll not only help your child handle their emotions but also build a solid, trusting parent-child relationship filled with love and support. So, take a deep breath, and remember that you've got this!
If you are interested in learning more about connecting with your child or setting boundaries please make sure to sign up for our newsletter! Dr. Wollerman has launched mini parenting coursesl! You do not want to miss it!
At Thrive, we take a positive, client-centered approach to therapy that is focused on creating a genuine connection with our clients. If you would like to talk with a Thrive Therapist about yourself, your child, or teen attending therapy we offer in person and telehealth via video sessions, please reach out to us by phone at 858-342-1304.
Blogs from the Thrive Family!
Musings from Erica, Jennifer, Maria, Kim, Andrea, Molly, Abbey, and Ying-Ying