Children co-regulate with their caregivers nervous systems so that they can learn how to self-regulate.
Your child tunes in on your nervous system as a survival mechanism to regulate their own nervous system when they are overwhelmed by emotions or sensory input.
As they grow older children automatically try to regulate themselves when their nervous system is activated, unfortunately we often interpret this as bad behavior.
When your child gets angry & screams, hits you or throws things around - they are possibly in a fight response trying to regulate themselves.
The fight response is there to activate our power when we need to protect ourselves, to help us assert our boundaries & express our needs.
The fight response can activate in children when they feel powerless, frustrated or pressured by us.
→ Imagine being a child for a moment and having that little control over what happens around or to you - quite frustrating, right?
We can help our children regulate the fight response by finding playful ways to let the activation discharge without hurting themselves or anyone else, like pillow fighting, wrestling or dancing.
When your child avoids eye contact, stops listening & starts fidgeting or runs out & slams the door - they are possibly in a flight response trying to regulate themselves.
The flight response is there to help us escape a potential threat when we need it, to run away and get to safety as fast as possible.
The flight response can activate in children when they feel overwhelmed, had too much sensory input or too little time to process information.
→ Imagine again being a child for a moment and having that much information to process all the time from all directions, without the filters & compartmentalism that we´ve developed as adults - it kind of makes you want to run away & hide, huh?
We can help our children regulate the flight response by giving them both space & containment + feeling the contrast between the two - like a chasing game where you catch them in your arms and then let them run away or letting them know you are there while also giving them some space alone.
When your child won't answer you, has a really hard time making a decision or just shuts down - they are possibly in a freeze response trying to regulate themselves.
The freeze response is there to help us leave our body when it is too painful or overwhelming to be in it. It numbs our sensory perception & lets us dissociate to not feel what is too much for us to process in that moment.
The freeze response can activate in children after they haven't been able to regulate out of a fight or flight response, when they are overwhelmed or we expect more of them than they are actually capable of.
→ Imagine how many situations you are told to sit still & be quiet as a child and what that does to the nervous system, when the body actually needs to be able to move to regulate out of activation - it's kind of easier to check out than to be with that frustration & overwhelm, right?
We can help our children regulate the freeze response by first lowering our expectations of them, giving them a space to rest in our arms and then allowing movement & play to arise.
Understanding nervous system regulation gives us the opportunity to help our children regulate when they´re activated in a survival response.
Co-regulation means allowing our nervous systems to sync up with each other, which lets us feel calm & safe through connection - we can co-regulate through eye contact, reaffirming words, deep breaths or touch.
Self-regulation means finding ways that helps you feel calm & safe on your own and attuning to what your body needs in that moment - we can self-regulate by allowing the body to move WITH the instinctual response in a safe way, instead of repressing it when it is activated.
The more we help our children to co-regulate with us when they are young, the easier they will learn to self-regulate when they are older.
If we show them that regulation can be playful and part of our quality time with them, it becomes a natural part of their life and self-care later in life.
We can also help them understand their strong reactions by talking about what is happening in an age appropriate way, naming the feeling we perceive in them, welcoming it and asking it what it wants to say / show us.
For children learning how to self-regulate through co-regulation is key for a functioning attunement to their own body & needs as they grow older.
Self-regulation and attunement is the key to emotional intelligence & healthy relationships later in life.
This is the foundation we can give our children.
Nervous system awareness is one of the seeds we focus on in our upcoming Somatic Parenting online immersion and here is why:
It has been an absolute game changer for me to understand how my own nervous system works and how it impacts me socially. Once I understood myself like that and learned some tools to regulate my state, I started looking at my daughters behaviour differently. Suddenly it all made sense, even the most challenging situations where I had just been frustrated before not knowing what to do. I also started noticing how her state changed instantly when I regulated my own nervous system and how much easier it was for us to find solutions through play then.
Right now you that you get 25% off the price on our online immersion that start 17/4, when you joing Parent Support mailing list - go to my website and find it there.