What is Self-Regulation?
Self-regulation, the ability to monitor and manage your thoughts, feelings and behaviors, is the foundation for all other learning. Developing self-regulation skills such that you can cope well with stress and stay focused on task as needed is one of the big jobs of early childhood. Sometimes, kids develop self-regulation naturally from being around stress free, self-regulating adults, from playing and exercising, from being in nature, eating healthy foods, getting plenty of sleep. More often, however, in our current culture, kids struggle with attention, learning and impulse control issues due to an inability to self-regulate.
How can you help your child develop Self-Regulation Skills?
Help your children help themselves self-regulate by teaching them about the brain and how to work with it. Empower them with understanding and tools that enable them to identify the part of the brain they are in and change it based on the widely used Triune Brain Model, in which our brains have 3 different channels. Which channel you are in make a big difference in how well you are able to think and self-regulate!
The Lizard Brain is in the brain stem and it handles survival. When we feel unsafe and stressed, we are in the lowest, instinctual channel 1. Our bodies automatically self-regulate by doing three things: freeze, flee for our life, or chase something down to defeat or eat. Unfortunately, this channel, particularly in the brain of a child, which does not yet have developed executive function impulse control, does not differentiate well between the stress of modern life and the stress of a true survival situation. The result: children can remain in a state of chronic stress, which leaves them hypersensitive, un-focused, reactive and unable, to self-regulate, think clearly and behave in socially acceptable ways.
The Mammal Brain or Limbic System lies in the mid-brain and identifies, categorizes and organizes our emotions. In this second channel, we can choose to self-regulate – to center, stabilize and steer ourselves with our hearts. We enter this level when we emotionally connect with others through play, movement, nature, connecting, creating, exploring, etc. We feel ease, confidence and joy, the opposites of stress.
These positive feelings open the door to channel 3, the Neocortex, which is where we can also consciously self-regulate as well as plan, generate ideas, analyze, and invent. In this channel is our executive function, where we have the ability to choose rationally, self-reflect and control our impulses.
When kids recognize the signs of stress and know they can self-regulate by taking positive or preventative action to shift into another brain channel, they are successful self-regulators. They can, through breathing, movement and mindfulness techniques, shift their whole nervous systems and enhance their ability to learn, to focus, to participate, to connect. The experience of self-regulating, doing something that settles their bodies and calms their minds, not only changes their mental-emotional state, it transforms their sense of self. They start to feel in charge of themselves which builds confidence on every level.
You can help children grow physically fit, emotionally stable and learning able with regular use of the movement programs and mindfulness resources we offer.