How do people learn to regulate their bodies, behaviors, and emotions? How can parents help children learn to self-regulate? The answer is through co-regulation!
Regulation develops first through external regulation – all of our needs are met by an outside person.
Over time, we then move into a period of time (newsflash: it’s a long period of time!) of co-regulation. Think about those moments when someone else was able to support you in getting back to a balanced state.
Then, over time, we internalize that regulation and we develop self-regulation.
Regulation isn’t a one time occurrence! Our ability to regulate, or find our balance, is developed throughout our lifetime when we experience co-regulation with someone else. Simply teaching regulation strategies would be like reading a book on yoga, then never actually getting into downward dog position. Or, it would be like reading a book about exercise without every leaving the couch! Or, like searching for healthy recipes while eating fast food. Simply teaching regulation strategies to our children (or ourselves!) isn’t enough. Co-regulation has to be experienced in relationships in order for us to develop the ability to manage stressors and face challenges.