Self-regulation is an important skill that helps us to stay calm and adjust our emotions, attention, and behavior in stressful or stimulating situations. Even adults can have trouble with self-regulation. Children find self-regulation even more difficult, since they do not yet have a fully developed pre-frontal cortex. For children with sensory processing issues who have over- or under-developed sensory systems, self-regulation can be particularly challenging! However, it’s still a hugely important skill to learn and utilize. You can help you toddler to develop good self-regulations skills that they will be able to use throughout their entire lives.
Model Good Self-Regulation Skills
You are your child’s role model. If they see you practicing self-regulation, then they get to see what those skills look like in action and are more inclined to use them as well. To model the skills that you want your child to use, try to avoid yelling when you get upset or angry. Instead, take a few calm breaths; your child is likely to see your behavior and mimic it when they are upset.
Teach Breathing Exercises
A simple breathing exercise can go a long way. When your child is upset, show them how to control their breathing. Have them breathe in slowly for 4 seconds, then breathe out slowly for 4 seconds. While they are breathing, have your child place their hand on their belly. Breathing from the belly instead of the chest is deeper and more calming.
Hugs for Proprioceptive Input
A massage or a bear hug can be a much-needed source of proprioceptive input for an anxious or angry child. Deep pressure from massages or hugs can help to regulate the nervous system. The combination of tactile input and proprioceptive input helps the brain to release serotonin while also helping to decrease over-responsiveness to other types of sensory input.
The Connections Therapy Center
The Connections Therapy Center serves families of children and adolescents with disabilities and special needs. We are a team of experts in the fields of pediatric speech, occupational therapy, speech-language pathology, and behavioral sciences. As a team, we offer intensive hands-on therapy for children and adolescents, as well as informative and useful resources for families. If you are interested in learning more about what we can do to help your family, visit us online or give us a call at (202) 561-1110 (Washington, D.C. office) or (301) 577-4333 (Lanham office). Want to get more information on how to help your child thrive? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and Pinterest.