This content was provided by Kinderling, a Playgroup NSW partner.
Helping our children understand and regulate their emotions is one of the most important things we can do as parents. But it’s not always easy when they’ve just thrown the entire bowl of spaghetti bolognaise that you made all over the floor…However, Dr Stuart Shanker, founder of the Self Regulation Institute, has developed a five-step process that will help you and your little ones, cope in the most trying of circumstances.
Self-regulation refers to how we manage stress. Sometimes the way we, or our kids, feel stress is problematic, and if we fall into bad habits, these can have negative ripple effect further down the track.
A simplified overview of Stuart's 5 steps to help kids self-regulate their stress:
1. Reframe - first we need to know the difference between misbehaviour and stress behaviour. Misbehaviour is when the child is fully aware of what he was doing and that he should not have been doing it. And it means it was within the child's capacity to have acted differently. With stress behaviour, they really don’t have those capacities. The reasons are a function of how the brain works under extreme stress.
2. Recognise - stress is anything that makes the brain burn energy, and everyone's stresses look different. For children, some of the most common stressors can include everything from not enough sleep, to stressed parents or too much sugar.
3. Reduce - once a child (and parent) has recognised their stressors, you can work to reduce them.
4. Reflect - however stress is impossible to avoid, so it's important to remember that after a meltdown, a parent's job is first to soothe. Give your child time to think about what they have experienced.
5. Respond, restore and recover - only once a child is calm, can you start to teach them about the feelings they are experiencing. Trying to help them register the stress they are feeling and show them that it takes self-management to navigate those feelings. Each child will need to find their own ways to calm down - drawing, going outside, quiet time etc.
The three things Stuart hopes every parent will keep in mind when faced with a stressful and trying situation:
There is no such thing as a bad kid.
There is no such thing as a kid who cannot learn to self-regulate in a manner that promotes growth in all its multi-faceted aspects.
There is no such thing as a trajectory that cannot be changed; all worrying trajectories can be changed, if only we have the right tools.
Check out our other great activities to assist with early childhood development.