Podcast

:20    I’LL BE JOINED BY DANA ROSENBLOOM

  • We’ll be talking about regulation – what it is, why it shows how connected we all are, and how understanding it can help you parent from a place of compassion and intention.
  • Dana is the founder of Dana’s Kids
  • She has a Master’s degree in Infant and Parent Development and Early Intervention from Bank Street College of Education, spent 4 years as the director of an early childhood-focused day camp in NY, and for 15 years she has worked in early childhood through her organization Dana’s Kids.

3:35    WELCOMING DANA TO THE PODCAST

  • Dana started by working with a child who was “failure to thrive” and she fell in love with this work
  • Dana’s Kids focuses on birth to 9 years old, for families going through a bump (I’m having a hard time connecting with my baby, how do I move a toddler from a crib to a bed, etc.)

4:58    REGULATION THAT GOES ON BETWEEN PARENTS AND CHILDREN IMPACTS EACH OTHER – THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE PARENT ALONG WITH THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE CHILD

  • Our ability to coregulate and use relationships to manage through challenging times is essential in everything else you do with your family 
  • Connection and regulation is what gets you from point A to point B, in the best way possible 
  • We are all interconnected – it’s not just about the child or just about the parent, it’s about where they meet
  • All things in parenting are related to this – but especially emotional regulation. We’re hardwired to pay attention to others emotional cues to know what our emotional cues need to be

6:47    KEEPING YOUR COOL WHEN YOUR CHILD CANNOT

  • Having the understanding that sometimes in that moment you need to step out
  • How to pause things or bring someone else in
  • Give yourself empathy 
  • This sounds simple, but it’s not
    • When anyone is triggered emotionally, we lose all our best skills. Kids may lose some of their skills when they are emotionally challenged – and that can trigger a parent 
    • We are all intertwined (one reaction elicits another)
    • Sometimes just knowing it’s not going well, but next time you’ll do better is enough

8:32    THE GOAL ISN’T TO BE PERFECTLY ON IT AND ZEN ALL THE TIME

  • This isn’t realistic 
  • Sarah is a human being and she also gets dysregulated and loses her cool, just like her 3 year old does

9:13    THE SKILLS WE GIVE CHILDREN TO BE ABLE TO BE BETTER REGULATED AS THEY GET OLDER AND BUILD UP RESILIENCY SKILLS – THAT’S THE POINT

  • It’s not about getting it right every single time
  • It’s about building up their ability to manage dysregulation – emotional, sensory or  both
  • If you’re not always successful that’s ok for you kids to see
  • It’s important that they know there are things that make you frustrated and angry 
  • Children don’t need to see the worst of your worst, but it’s ok for them to see you upset

10:49    HOW DO WE TEACH THIS TO CHILDREN?

  • Modeling – this is the best way for kids to take in information, especially when they’re really young
  • When they’re dysregulated their frontal lobes aren’t online. Their sensory input, amygdala (fear and anger center), and threat detection is what’s online 
  • If you come in hot and they’re hot, you’re reinforcing the threat input to their brain
  • We can show kids with our bodies that their threat detector can turn off because they’re safe – showing them this with our body language – this is a key element to coregulation

12:12    GET COMFORTABLE WITH YOUR CHILD BEING UNCOMFORTABLE

  • Getting comfortable with this is hard
  • Our visceral reaction when we see a child that is uncomfortable is to want to comfort, problem solve, tell them they’re ok – but you have to be mindful of how this gets communicated
  • Communicate non-verbally they are safe and we are there for them
  • Using language can feel overstimulating and can make a child more dysregulated 
  • They are often not ready to process verbal information yet
  • They need a moment to sit with being uncomfortable 
  • “Just calm down” is the last thing we want to hear when we’re upset – “just use your words” can be the same thing for kids 
  • When kids are told to use their words when they don’t have access to them is destabilizing and can dysregulate them more

14:11    TRY USING POSITIVE ALTERNATIVES 

  • Help them to know what they should do, not what they shouldn’t do
  • Our physical presence (sometimes just in a corner of the room) can be all the support they need
  • Giving them an extra moment to feel big feelings and then have someone step in
  • “Do you want to problem solve or do you want a hug?” – gives kids some control and helps them learn to ask for what they need
  • For little ones, being emotionally available to them as they experience these feelings, that availability is often more reassuring than anything else
  • Be available rather than filling the space with “more”
  • With kids who are more sensitive to sensory input – the more sensory input we throw at them, the harder it is for them to regulate

16:18    A PARENT’S BEST STRATEGY IS TO BE A DETECTIVE NOT A TEACHER

  • Try to think: I need to learn all the things my child is telling me
  • I need to figure out their triggers, their sensory maximum points, what calms them – this is different for every kid 
  • Some kids want compression/hugs/touch/to be held (like Sarah’s son) 
  • Others recoil from touch when they’re upset and crave proximity/presence/quiet (like Sarah’s daughter)
  • Parents may think, “what am I doing wrong, why isn’t she soothed by me holding her?” 
  • Understand you may need to learn a new set of systems for different children – different strategies for soothing them

17:52    THERE IS AN OPPORTUNITY FOR YOU TO LEARN WHO YOUR CHILD IS AND ALSO WHO YOU ARE

  • In these moments it’s very natural to feel rejected, but also it helps to know it’s really not about you in this moment
  • The parenting dance – each child is a new partner you need to learn to dance with 
  • What’s your baby’s rhythm?
    • How your baby likes to be held, what kind of movement they like, etc – this gives you so much information about who they are 
    • All of this helps us to think about how we can parent each individual child
  • Behavior has meaning right from the beginning – even if it’s not always easy to understand

19:44    WHEN A CHILD IS DYSREGULATED IT DOESN’T FEEL GOOD TO THEM

  • They’re not doing it to piss you off, they have gotten to a place where they are no longer able to do what they need to do to stay calm
  • Acknowledge what is happening for them and for you – leaving room for forgiveness for each of you goes a long way and allows for growth and connection 
  • It helps when you as the parent can stay in your frontal lobes. A way to stay there is to not see your child’s behavior as a threat.
  • Quick neurobiology 101 – When we see something threatening to us, our fight or flight response is activated. The calm, thoughtful, problem solving part of your brain (frontal lobes) goes offline.
  • When kids become dysregulated – it happens fast because their frontal lobes are underdeveloped at this age
  • Dysregulaiton is a very contagious state
  •  If we as parents see our child in threat mode, tell ourselves that our child is out of control and not trying to be bad or push our buttons, but they need our help to calm their body down – this mindset shift can soften us, bring us out of our own fight or flight and bring us back into our frontal lobes – this is hard to do, it takes a lot of mindfulness and self compassion
  • Coregulation first requires us to regulate ourselves 

22:34    WHAT IS COREGULATION?

  • If you’re on a plane and it’s going down – would you want flight attendants to be walking calmly giving instructions, or running up and down yelling “we’re all gonna die!!”? – your ability to get your mask on is directly related to the way the information is being presented to you
  • As parent, we want to bring down the level of excitement and raw energy
  • The more a child escalates, the more we want to counterbalance that escalation and bring it all down
  • Continue limit setting, not tolerating bad behavior – make intentional choices in the moment (sometimes that is a pause, sometimes it is turning down lights, sometimes moving to a quieter area, etc.)
  • We as the adult want to become more solid and grounded and lower and slower in the way that we’re responding 
  • This signals safety to the body and then children can move forward

24:50    WHEN CHILDREN ARE YOUNG THEY CAN’T DO THE WORK TO REGULATE THEMSELVES ALONE AND NEED ADULTS TO HELP THEM

  • This is similar to why we swaddle babies – because they can’t control their reflexes as infants 
  • Similarly to the swaddle, kids need an external boundary to help them regulate until they can do this work themselves 
  • The goal is to help them learn skills to be able to regulate on their own (sensory and emotional)
  • We can help kids become aware of what’s happening to their bodies and emotions through modeling, helping them select tools and strategies that will work for them
  • The more we’re aware of effective tools, the easier it is for a child to take over using those tools themselves as they get older

26:27    WHAT IF I’M THE REASON THEY’RE DYSREGULATED? (THEY’RE MAD AT ME BECAUSE I’M HOLDING A LIMIT)

  • You’re going to be the cause of your child being pissed a lot 
  • Repeat the mantra “sometimes that happens” – feel comfortable in your child’s discomfort 
  • Knowing you are emotionally responsive and available to your child in other moments helps your do this effectively
  • Sometimes the best thing we can do is to sit down next to them, let them know we are there, but not look to change their feelings or reason with them with logic
  • If we try to convince them the limit we set is right or cajole them – the more they’ll pull back
  • Sometimes when we lean into the dysregulation, it actually brings them out of it faster
  • You can try:
    • “You are so mad. I said no cookies and you are so mad.” (then leave it there)
    • Depending on a child’s age or verbal level you can say, “I wish we could eat cookies all day long too!” 
  • It’s all about knowing your own child – how much language you use, when to use that language, etc.
  • Sometimes the immediate response is just acknowledgement that you did something that made your child unhappy – then give them a “mad minute”
  • No cookies to a 3 year-old can lead to big emotional dysregulation, and it’s ok for them to take a “mad minute”
  • Don’t give them 15 mins – but let them have a second without trying to get them out of that state

30:11    PARENTS OFTEN SEE EMOTIONAL DYSREGULATION AS A SIGN THAT THEIR LIMIT WAS SET INCORRECTLY 

  • Our job is to set the limit, to say no, to keep safe space, etc
  • Our job is not to get our kids to agree with our limit – if they agreed with it we wouldn’t have to set the limit in the first place
  • Be emotionally and mentally prepared that when we set limit, our kids may be in complete rejection of that limit and show that to us
  • The barometer for how effective a limit is is not our child’s cooperation – their rejection is not a referendum on how effective the limit is
  • It’s more important for us to be able to hold the limit in the face of their protest and not get agitated by that – to see that as an appropriate response from them 
  • We can have effective discipline strategies and also coregulated

31:48    YOUR CHILD’S REJECTION OF THE LIMIT YOU SET IS NOT A REFLECTION OF HOW GOOD OF A PARENT YOU ARE

  • If someone says “no” to you, you probably aren’t going to like it. If someone says calm down, it will likely set you off more
  • You can set a limit and your child can say it’s a stupid limit – that’s allowed
  • Young kids won’t say, “this limit really does make sense” – and they don’t need to for them to take in this useful limit 
  • Sarah was shocked to see when she set a limit for her son that he was very upset about, the next day he was following the new rule without a problem 

33:23     DEVELOPMENT OF SELF AND CONFIDENCE 

  • When I don’t like something I say it – this isn’t a bad thing
  • We want kids to be able to say “I don’t like that” – parents have the option to respond, “you don’t have to like it, but it’s still the rule”
  • We don’t want to remove their push back either – this becomes a very important skill later in life

34:06    AFTER KIDS PUSH BACK, THAT THEN GIVES YOU THE OPPORTUNITY TO REPAIR

  • Your child sees that you both got through it
  • What this repair looks like can depend on your skills, your child’s skills, the relationship you have together
  • Repair makes relationships stronger
  • This teaches children resilience 
  • Whether coregulation happens beautifully or not, our goal is to let a child know they can survive and get through it all 
  • It’s not easy, it doesn’t always feel good – but I can get through this

35:47    NORMALIZE INSECURITIES IN PARENTING 

  • Figuring out what works for you and your child can be an adaptation and that’s ok
  • There are lots of people telling parents what to say and how to say it – that can be a useful place to start, but you can’t follow a script with your child
  • It’s important to be able to adapt to your own child and also to each situation
  • You can’t come at every problem with a script
  • It’s not so much what I say, but my body language as I’m saying it that is really the important part
  • Your body language gives off a sense of safety 
  • Communicate with your child your nonverbal and verbal language that they’re safe and you’re there for them
  • You need to be regulated yourself to do this
  • Now you have a solid tool that’s adaptable to any scenario 

37:44    THIS IS NOT EASY!

  • Sometimes maternal instinct doesn’t just come naturally and that’s ok too
  • There are professionals available to help you learn to regulate, to reflect on what’s happening with your child so you have the tools for the moment 
  • Professionals also help you to think about some questions – who am I as a human? as a parent? Who is my child? Where is their development currently? Where are they temperamentally, emotionally, from a sensory standpoint? etc.
  • We want to give people the tools that allow them to be reflective and understanding of themselves and their children and apply that to all situations that come up

39:30    TO LEARN MORE ABOUT DANA AND DANA’S KIDS:

42:57    BEFORE YOU CAN COREGULATE WITH YOUR CHILD YOU MUST FIRST BECOME REGULATED YOURSELF

  • Try using a grounding technique – listen to the podcast episode for me to walk you through an exercise 
  • After you’ve done this exercise, either guided or on your own, head over to @securelyattachedpodcast on Instagram and let me know how it felt for you
  • To learn other regulation techniques and additional ways to get your body back into your parasympathetic nervous system, check out my Parent Smarter, Not Harder guide. In it I breakdown 17 neuropsychological strategies that help you to utilize brain science to your advantage!

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I want to hear from you! Send me a topic you want me to cover or a question you want answered on the show!

✨ DM me on Instagram at @securelyattachedpodcast or @drsarahbren

✨ Send an email to info@drsarahbren.com

✨ And check out drsarahbren.com for more parenting resources

06. Teaching children emotion regulation skills through coregulation : A conversation with Dana Rosenbloom 

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