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The Friendly Feminist 
Family Psychologist 

Quarantined with Kids: Co-Regulation

Updated: Apr 13, 2020

A little girl stuck inside has made a dozen colourful paintings.

Whoa, you guys, it is a CRAZY time right now.

The world is shut down, and everything is different. When someone asks you, "How are you?" as a normal every day telephone greeting, you're sort of at a loss. As if you could even come up with an answer for that.

It's even harder if you are stuck at home with kids. They are going nuts and are totally unable to understand why everything is so different all of a sudden. Why can't I go to preschool? Why can't my friends come over? Why can't we see Grandma and Grandpa? It's impossible to know how to even answer these questions without totally freaking them out.

It's a TOUGH time to be a parent. I can't fix that, but I thought I would work for the next little while on posts that will help you find sanity in the midst of the crazy. Here is today's:

You can't regulate your kid from a place of dysregulation.

Ah, that word. Regulation. We've heard it too much. People usually use the term "self-regulation" when it comes to kids. As in, "Johnny needs to work on his self-regulation skills." Yeah, Johnny, get on that.

The thing we are learning from attachment and neuropsychology research is that kids don't self-regulate, they co-regulate. (Actually, all of us co-regulate, but that is a topic for another time). Young nervous systems are still learning how to regulate themselves, and so they learn to regulate by being near another regulated adult.

So here's the hard question: How you YOU regulate during a time like this? Being regulated doesn't mean being perfectly calm or zen. You can be anxious and regulated. You can be sad and regulated. Regulation simply means you are connected to your body and aware of what is happening for you in the present moment.

So the next time you start to feel overwhelmed by state of the world, or the laundry pile, or the dishes or your kid's behaviour, take a minute and try one of these little exercises:

  1. Look around the room and use your senses. Pick 5 things you can see, hear, and touch. Or, name one thing in the room for every colour of the rainbow.

  2. Take 2 minutes to breath. I bet your diaphragm feels pretty tight from the stress. Notice it starting to loosen and let your lungs expand.

  3. Give yourself a reassuring touch. Put your hand on your chest. Wrap your arms around yourself. Put a supporting hand on the places that ache. This may feel weird or cheesy, but science tells us that self-touch lights up our brain in exactly the same pattern as if a loved one were touching us.

  4. Reach out. If you aren't coping well, call a friend or parent. Tell your partner, "I need a hug right now." Though you feel alone, you have people who love you and will do anything they can to support you.

It's a hard time to be a parent, friends. Hang in there. And if there is anything I can do to support you during this time, please do let me know. Send and email, give me a call, whatever you need. If I can't help you, I will find someone who can.

Be well.

Lesbian couple parenting their two young children together at home.

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