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Tips for responding to dysregulation

The countdown to summer is on, and as the world opens up again many of us find ourselves overwhelmed with sports practice, carpool, end of school activities and, if you’re like me, endless piles of laundry on top of it all.

In the hustle and bustle it’s easy to find ourselves at odds with the very children we seek to love and nurture. Dysregulation can occur in our children AND in ourselves. Dysregulation happens when a child or adult is overwhelmed and can only react to events rather than respond. If you’ve noticed your child becoming more overwhelmed than usual during homework, melting down when faced with simple choices or feeling overloaded in social situations, or even a quick run to the grocery store it might be time to consider a few techniques to aid in regulation.

Here are a few quick ideas:

1. First, examine yourself. We cannot help others regulate when we are not regulated ourselves. Give yourself grace, take a moment to employ self care strategies. Are you tired, have you been eating well,  getting exercise, getting sunshine? Take inventory. A short walk, five minutes of soaking up the sun or simply getting to bed on time might be exactly what you need. Making small tweaks, a little bit at a time can add up to a lot of support over time.

2. Now… what can you do to invite your child into regulation. A few simple options might be:

  • Offering a drink or snack. This gets their body moving, their jaw chewing, it provides sensory input. Give simple but direct choices. A child may not be able to speak the exact item they need while dysregulated. Crunchy snacks, something you can suck on, or something with a lot of flavor may be the jolt they need.

  • Get your kiddo moving in a playful way. Invite them to thumb wrestle, arm wrestle, make a pretzel or shape with their body; if time allows, invite them to jump on a trampoline or play a yard game with you. Perhaps trying to do an assisted hand stand or cartwheel and getting upside down will help alter their perspective.

  • Help your child know what to expect. We can’t always plan EVERYTHING in advance, but giving your child a preview of the next day and setting things out for the morning helps everyone start on the right foot.

  • Use the scaffolding method to help your child with certain emotional or physical tasks they are having trouble mastering. Click here to read about this directly from Child Mind Institute.
  • Lastly, try a few coping skills with your kiddo. You may find something helpful here. I often employ the “take me there” activity when discussing the school day, or a book my child has read. Try that one while driving the endless carpool!

Parents, these days are not easy. But these days are certainly fleeting. We hope that if you find yourself struggling today something we shared will open your mind to ways to support your child AND yourself. We are continually praying for you and your family as you grow and learn together.

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