Teaching Our Children How to Self-Regulate and Recharge

Teaching children self-regulation

In my life, there are so many different strategies I use to bring myself back to balance and just re-charge when I feel “out-of-sorts”. Sometimes I go for a walk or read by the lake, other times I may get completely absorbed in a craft project or listen to my favorite musician. My strategies are unique to me and may look completely different for another person. Unfortunately, there are other times I use unhealthy strategies and might indulge in a family-size bag of Ruffles potato chips with a heaping mound of French Onion dip … my absolute weakness. The point is, we all — adults and children alike — have good and bad days.  

That is why it is so important to teach our kiddos how to self-regulate in healthy ways; to help them to articulate how their bodies are feeling in the moment; and to teach them how to respond with things that calm them. 

You can start teaching your children healthy self-regulation by having a conversation with them about “what makes their heart happy”, or “what things help them feel calm”. You can keep a poster filled with pictures or words that represent the strategies that they can choose when they need to regulate in the moment. Hang the poster in an easy to find place or on the fridge.

Some ideas for strategies could be:

  • Eating a healthy snack or getting a drink of water
  • Doing slow, deep belly breathing
  • Coloring or drawing
  • Listening to music
  • Playing with Legos
  • Chewing bubble gum
  • Doing wall pushes or chair push-ups
  • Jumping rope or swinging

The goal is to help them co-regulate so that they can choose healthy strategies that will lead to self-regulation as they get older.

Another great way to teach kiddos to be mindful of their emotions is through children’s books! Here is a list of great children’s books that teach kiddos how to handle emotions.

“Children learn how to regulate their emotions through ‘co-regulation’. The better we can soothe them when they are agitated, or support them when they are low, the better they ‘absorb’ how to do this for themselves.” - Dr. Stuart Shanker (Dr. Stuart Shanker is a research professor and the founder and Science Director of the Self-Regulation Institute).  

Written by Angie Woodhead, LSW

Social Worker, TBRI® Practitioner, and Making Sense of Your Worth Facilitator at The Maine Children's Home for Little Wanderers