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How can self regulation skills help my child?

{insert all the emoji icons! - does that sound sum up our children’s emotions in a day?}

Self-regulation refers to a child's ability to manage their emotions, behaviors, and thoughts in a way that is appropriate and effective for the demands of their environment. This includes maintaining focus, following directions, coping with changes, and controlling impulses in various environments as well.

Self-regulation is never fully mastered. We are continuously learning and adapting to various events in our life. We are continuously growing!

A child’s self regulation skills will be different than that of an adolescent. As much as an adults self regulation skills will be different then that of an elderly person. Our experiences shape us and also how we respond to those experiences shapes our self regulation skills.

As a pediatric occupational therapist, it's important to emphasize that self-regulation skills are not a destination, but rather a journey.

How can developing self regulation skills help your child? Here is a small list of suggestions:

1. Improved Academic Performance: Helps them focus, follow instructions, and complete tasks efficiently. When we are out of our “emotional brain”, we can spend more time in our “thinking brain”. As we develop self regulation skills, the road between thinking and feeling can be smoother and more refined.

2. Emotional Control: Enables better handling of emotions like frustration, anxiety, and anger, leading to a more positive outlook. As the adult, we are part of their learning because we are constantly modeling what self regulation skills should look like. We need to develop our own awareness so that our children can too.

3. Social Skills: Enhances their ability to interact with peers, resolve conflicts, and develop stronger friendships. When we are less in our emotions, we can be more “external” and pay attention to those social cues around us.

4. Stress Management: Equips them with tools to handle stress and pressure more effectively. We learn what triggers might create a response for us and what solutions we can develop to help reduce the stress we feel.

5. Healthy Habits: Encourages consistent routines in activities like studying, exercising, and sleeping. These physical activities are an integral part of self regulation development.

6. Decision Making: Promotes thoughtful decisions instead of impulsive reactions. This relates to being able to move between thinking and feeling more effectively. When we don’t react immediately and use our thinking brain, we can make better decisions.

7. Resilience: Builds resilience, helping them recover from setbacks and persist through challenges.

8. Self-Discipline: Fosters self-motivation and discipline to set and achieve personal goals.

Overall, self-regulation skills are fundamental to your child’s emotional, social, and cognitive development, setting the stage for lifelong success.

Here are a few sensory based strategies that help develop self regulation skills:

  • Deep pressure from direct pressure such as a hug/squeeze or indirect weighted blanket, etc.

  • Use movement ! Rhythmical activities are very helpful.

  • Yoga!

  • Physical activity!!

  • Journaling - release thoughts and feelings, and create more moments of mindfulness

  • Deep breathing

  • Listening to music

  • Taking a break, finding a calmer space away from the stressor.

Each person has a technique that can work better for them. You can try various ones and see which one “sticks” and creates a calmer sense of self in your little one and you (adult).

If you are looking for direct support, you can search for occupational therapists that work with children near you.


Thanks for reading!

Jessica Earle, Occupational therapist 👩🏻 🙌

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