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Co-regulation tips

6 replies

mahrezzy · 30/05/2020 08:05

Hi all. My son came home nearly three weeks ago and it's becoming apparent he has problems regulating his emotions when he starts to spin out from all the changes he's been through. Completely understandable given he's only two, has suffered neglect, has been through several changes of carers and is now with me. A grown adult would struggle to work through all he's been through, let alone a child whose brain is still developing.

I'd really like to be able to co-regulate with him when he goes through this (fast breathing, his speech going crazy before then he then gets physical with frustration: hitting, biting and kicking. I've got all the therapuetic parenting books and have read them several times, but I'm hoping for some more real life tips on how you've helped your children regulate their emotions when this happens. Or any wise words of wisdom!

Thanks so much x

OP posts:
121Sarah121 · 30/05/2020 10:56

My son was 3 when he came home. He was and can still be very dysregulated. I rock him. Either like a baby (if he can tolerate the closeness) or in my lap, back to my chest. That’s if he is completely dysregulated. If I see him struggling, music and dancing helps. Going to the duck pond or beach. Feeding the ducks calms him as when the seeds fall to the bottom he holds his breath in anticipation of them popping back up. The waves are calming at the beach. Also kicking a football and swinging on a swing. It took me a long time to understand when he was starting to dysregulated. (He gets into a loop with either song lyrics or something he has heard on tv, bring incredibly hyper vigilant, risky behaviour, incredibly argumentative etc). I think you know the theory, next its getting to know your son, signs he is dysregualted and strategies that support him.

Weatherforducks · 30/05/2020 11:33

Eldest was terrible in the car, anxiety levels would go through the roof, he would repeat the same phrase/question over and over - almost like you'd ignored him. This would spiral into full blown meltdown...I used to find this really stressful (and dangerous) - particularly if there was no where to pull over. One thing that worked for him was blowing up imaginary balloons. We would all do it together (and make the noises of how a balloon would sound...I would then slow the breathing down and make it deeper and longer. When the balloon was blown up and we were all much calmer, we would then go on an imaginary adventure (the balloon would lift the car off the road), the adventure was led by him and he would describe what he could see from the flying car...all sounds a bit daft written down, but it worked for us. If I can ever feel him getting anxious now I just say "shall we blow up a balloon'.

fasparent · 30/05/2020 15:42

many LA's use // would be worth checking for advice and support.

ifchocolatewerecelery · 30/05/2020 23:17

Newborn babies rely on being held by their mother to coregulate. The sound and rhythm of their heartbeat and breathing being familiar from the womb and being held closely replicates the feeling of being in the womb. So doing activities sitting on your lap when he is calm is a good way to start this off. These can include reading books, feeding him (I fed my AD breakfast cereal everyday sitting on my lap until she was 3.5) and drawing (magma doodles are great). If you don't already have something in his bed that smells strongly of you then I'd recommend you do so. If you have a good photo of the two of you together a photo cushion is great. These things will help him become familiar with the sound, feel and smell of you making it easier to accept comfort. Swimming is another great activity for developing trust and physical closeness.

Our most successful calming and coregulation strategies are as follows:

Change of scene. For this one we go somewhere else when the behaviour (for want of a better word) starts. So if she woke up crying I'd take her out of her room and downstairs for a cuddle and some milk. We' often go for a little walk around our estate with me carrying her. We live somewhere safe and so have done this in the middle of the night when all else fails.

Milk in a baby bottle or these days through a straw. Sucking is soothing and so is drinking milk. This a strategy we use when she's started to calm - too soon and it gets thrown across the room! Even now I keep milk in a beaker on stand by at night just in case. She drank out of a baby bottle until just under 3.5 when she started biting through them every time she had one.

Having a script. When you know what the cause is and it happens regularly, script a response that you use each time. We've had various ones since LO came home from 'see you in the morning when the (gro glow) clock turns yellow with the sun' to ' daddy loved you and you'll see him in the morning, he won't leave without giving you a kiss'.

Bed sharing. It's not for everyone. We got a cot side and put it on our bed so we didn't have to worry about her falling off in the night and she had her own blanket for a long time so she didn't overheat under mine covers. The rule is she starts in her own room unless she's ill or hysterical but is welcome in with me any time once I've gone to bed.

Acknowledging the emotion and giving permission to feel it. Being told it's ok to be upset, to be angry, to grieve sends a powerful message.

Physical activity. Along with walking, our LO finds her indoor and outdoor trampolines, her peanut ball, swinging and being able to climb to be soothing.

Jellycatspyjamas · 30/05/2020 23:50

All excellent posts above. Things that have also worked for us in getting the kids into water - paddling pool, bath, swim, sea - it doesn’t matter, if they are dysregulated water really helps. My DD plays clapping games when she’s starting to struggle, the physical contact, without being intimate and the rhyme of the game all help settle her.

My two didn’t really have a vocabulary for feelings so we played when I’m angry, my face looks like..., and I feel .... in the car with me watching their faces in the mirror. Sometimes if I couldn’t catch it in time I’d sit and hold them while they cried, sometimes for an hour or more.

We bed share too and will usually have or both kids in at some point overnight, often they just need reassurance but it also builds those bonds, so worth the sleepless nights for us.

mumphychat · 31/05/2020 10:54

This is what I have found:

In the moment, every time, be present for him, very calm, steady as a rock, so that he knows the feelings he is feeling are ok and that you are in control of your feelings and can help him. If it has been triggered by going to a particular place - such as going into a cafe or shop - pick him up, carry him out, focus on him not anyone else, and explain later to him why, that it was too much, but that you can go back another time if he wants.

When he is calm, do two things:

  • talk to him about how you think he is thinking and feeling about his past, his present, different experiences, many times, watch for his reactions to indicate agreement or not agreement and respond, don't expect a response for a while yet as he is only 2, but do keep on doing this - as he gets older you can start to talk about his thoughts and feelings in very simple ways - for now it is him being understood and learning the language of feelings and communication and feeling connected with you. You can start him learning about his own feelings about everything by giving him small, easy choices every day, building them up.

  • explain gently but persistently and firmly that his feelings are good, but that hands are not for hitting and feet are not for kicking - buy books that talk about this too.

As he gets older you can teach him strategies for dealing with his own language, and talk about his thoughts and feelings, this is so important, with an adopted child helping them know who they are as anindividual as well as part of your family. Over time he will mimic how you deal with stress and emotions so again this is really important to be aware of.

The above will be needed from you multiple, multiple times over the next few years - it is a marathon!
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