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What Should Parents Know About Self-Regulation and Childhood Development?

Kids Social SkillsIs your child having difficulty coping with challenging and unexpected situations? New situations can be especially distressing for children. Parents sometimes struggle to help their children learn the coping skills required to regulate their emotions and responses to stressful, upsetting, and confusing situations. Managing one’s reactions is a skill-set that everyone has to develop and to a greater or lesser degree, most of us have. As essential as these skills are, few people have been actually taught self-regulation. Deliberately learning these skills and then putting them into practice makes coping with unexpected and stressful situations easier. In fact, these skills are not difficult to learn if you have the right teacher and a willing child. Parents can help children learn self-regulation by first recognizing how these skills manifest in their own lives.

What Exactly Is Self-Regulation?

Self-regulation is a process that helps people select appropriate responses to new situations. The process can be broken down into several different steps that might be described like this:

  • Recognizing that one is reacting to a situation, circumstance, or condition
  • Acknowledging these reactions
  • Naming the reactions
  • Identifying the responses that will prevent these reactions from causing increased distress
  • Reframing the situation through the application of appropriate responses
  • Reassessing one’s feelings
  • Repeating the regulation steps if necessary.

All children absorb the lessons taught by their experiences to help them determine how to respond to new situations. Internalizing this process comes very easily to some children; others struggle to internalize the lessons of past experiences and so react in a manner that does not suit the situation. As a result, some children can struggle with learning and may exhibit behavior problems.

Self-Regulation Is Connected to Many Aspects of Life

Adults have been absorbing and internalizing experiences for many more years more than children. It can be hard for even the most patient and understanding adult to put themselves back into the position of a child. Recognizing that children self-regulate at different speeds is very important. Moreover, adults must be very careful to keep their expectations realistic. A very young child will have a much different capacity for self-regulation than one that is even a few years older.

Even though self-regulation is a process that is naturally developed as a child grows, there are certain ways that parents, teachers, and other guardians might promote this. Zones of Regulation is just one particular program that aims to develop executive function skills in order to help children actively internalizing the situations they encounter.

Learning self-regulation is part of growing up but many parents can help the process by getting their kids involved with summer camps teaching social skills. Understanding how responses are selected is a good way to start improving one’s own mental stance.

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