Supporting Children To Self-Regulate
For children we start to support self regulation at an early age as babies. Babies demonstrates their emotions through crying and laughing and we support them as babies by comforting or celebrating with them. (We don't celebrate crying, that would be weird!) We also start by introducing routines at at an early age (babies) which reduces anxiety - when children know what to expect they can relax more.
Ideas for supporting and promoting self-regulation:
Provide routine and structure:
Children need to know that you're going to be there to support them. From an early age, babies will attach to mum and dad and know to seek comfort from them when they are hurt. This process continues well into later life. Children need to know that you're there to support them as they begin to venture off and become more self-regulated.
Children thrive with routine and it is important to establish this from an early point and continue with it. This is true for both home and settings. The routine within a setting should be both structured but fluid so that unusual events don't cause stress and anxiety to the children (e.g. a fire alarm). The routine will become known the children and they can be less anxious moving from one activity to another if they know what is expected of them, where they will go and what they must do.
It is important to prepare children as much as possible for unusual events such as fire alarm or a sports day. Children may struggle with these and become very agitated and seek comfort and guidance from an adult. However if they are prepared they can demonstrate a higher level of understanding and independence and regulate their own emotions.
Embody empathy and caring:
When a child hurts themselves or is feeling upset rather than soothe them to stop crying, talk about their feelings. This is called emotional literacy and it is important for children to be able to label emotions so that they can process them in the future. This doesn't mean that you shouldn't give comfort to children, it should be a mix of both comfort and reassurance that what they are feeling is natural and ok.
Equally as adult it is important to talk about your own feelings. If you're worried or sad, tell the children. They may have strategies that they can talk about or they may see that a trusted adult feels these emotions too and thats fine. Be conscious that you do need to remain a supportive adult so if you discuss your own feelings, reassure children that you know how to deal with it or you're talking about it because you don't want to keep it locked away.
Make your room/setting or school appropriate:
Children will respond to settings which promote self-regulation as well as emotional literacy. All staff should be supportive of the feelings of children and demonstrate this by talking openly with children about their own feelings. Phrases such as, 'that makes me sad because..' are useful for younger children or, 'I'm angry about that because ... but you can make it better by...' are appropriate for older children.
Equally your third teacher (the environment) should reflect the developing needs of children. Where ever possible, develop opportunities for independence within the space by placing resources in clearly marked containers or shelves which children can access without help. Resources should be age appropriate as well as familiar (or modelled if they are new) because we want children to feel confident to use these without the adult.
Know the rules:
Support children from the onset when it comes to learning the rules. Children need to know that we have to have rules to keep children safe. So for example, we wouldn't put fingers in plug sockets or run around inside. One behaviour outdoors might well be different to one outside and the same is true for home-school.
Talk to children to teach them about the rules within the space but try and start with what they know about staying safe at home.