I ended yesterday's post with a promise to discuss "self-regulation" today...so here goes!
I looked this up in the dictionary...just to be sure we get off on the right foot with this topic. After all, I specialize in supporting children who have difficulties "regulating" their "attention, emotions, moods and behaviours" so thought clarity with defining the term was important!
Other than definitions related to "rules" (i.e. "laws" or "regulations"), the term "regulation" means, "the act of controlling or bringing under control" (as per Google's Dictionary). So when we say "thermoregulation", we mean controlling temperature - your home's thermostat is a self-regulating system that regulates temperature, just like your brain regulates your body temperature! "Emotional regulation", means "control over emotions". And when we say "behaviour regulation", we mean "bringing behaviours under control".
When we talk about "SELF-regulation", we mean bringing some aspect of ourselves under control BY ourselves. So "self-regulation of emotions" is about bringing your own emotions under control, by yourself.
Now here's the rub... Children do NOT born being able to self-regulate their emotions. They LEARN this through what is called "co-regulation" which requires the attuned, responsive, compassionate efforts of caring adults. Adults who can empathize and understand what a child might be needing (or is able to take the time to do the detective work involved in finding out!) can then step in and help a child learn to understand their feelings, needs and develop the kind of neural connections in the brain that support a child being able to manage their own feelings....eventually. And when children are able to understand and manage their own feelings (sometimes by asking for help from a caring friend - like when we as adults talk to a friend about something difficult that is happening in our lives), they become able to be in charge of their own attention, moods and behaviours.
Empathy then is the foundation for children developing the capacity for "emotional regulation", specifically, the empathy shown by a caring adult.
And, when adults need support with "emotional regulation"? They need to have their own strategies, tools and other empathetic adults (i.e. NOT their children) to be integral parts of their lives.