Emergency Phone Numbers:
- Children Youth and Families Addiction and Mental Health Intake: 780 342-2701
- Mobile Response Team: 780 427-4491
- The Support Network, Edmonton Distress Line: 780 482-HELP (4357)
- Kids Help Phone: 1 800-668-6868
This month we focus on self-regulation. Self-regulation is our ability to meet life’s challenges and rise to life’s potential (http://www.self-regulation.ca/).
What is it?
Self-Regulation is a broad term that refers to how people manage energy expenditure (stress), recovery and restoration in order to enhance growth. Effective self regulation requires learning to recognize and respond to stress (https://self-reg.ca/).
Children develop self-regulation at different rates. It initially develops by receiving comfort and care from warm, supportive and trusted adults. Children begin to learn to self-regulate their feelings by watching how their caregivers manage their own feelings and behaviors. Children need ongoing support from adults (co-regulators) to help them learn to regulate.
The stress reaction in the body is designed to protect us from dangerous situations and in small amounts stress can be helpful to increase our performance or success at a task.
However, if there is too much stress experienced by the body for too long it can become unhelpful. Too much unmanageable stress can negatively impact areas of our life, and we can see changes to our physical, emotional and social health.
Signs of Stress
Signs of stress to watch out for:
- Physical: Headaches, neck aches, indigestion, stomach aches, sweaty palms, racing heart, difficulty sleeping, etc.
- Emotional: Crying, anger, loneliness, forgetfulness, diminished sense of humour, irritability, hopelessness, unhappiness, indecisiveness, sensitivity, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, etc.
- Behavioural: withdrawal or avoidance, needing to be in control, acting aggressive, feeling restless, grinding teeth, eating poorly, having nightmares, drinking, smoking or using drugs, etc.
What to do about it?
What can Parents do?
- Understand that some stress is expected and developmentally appropriate.
- Help your child to learn how to identify their stressors and reduce those that are not helpful. Get to know what triggers your child’s stress response.
- Teach kids how to recognize and communicate their feelings (sad, mad, scared, etc.) and help them become more self-aware of their stress response (holding their breath, clenched fists, running away). Consider using feeling charts, social/emotional coaching, or practicing mindfulness.
- Help your child learn what works for them; explore calming techniques or things to avoid so they can return back to their calm/regulated state.
Remember children will need ongoing support from parents and other adults to build strong self regulation skills.
Learning to Cope
There are many ways to learn to cope with stress, to manage it, and to decrease it in a child’s life.
- Basic lifestyle changes include getting enough sleep, eating well, and regular exercise. These healthy habits can reduce stress levels in the moment and increase your ability to cope with stress in the long term.
- Having and maintaining a regular routine at home and at school can be helpful to reduce stress in one’s life.
- Social supports such as family, friends, and healthy adult supports that are physically and emotionally available help children learn to cope.
Consider the following list of calming techniques and find the ones that work best for your child:
- Take deep breathes – breathe slowly and deeply to help calm the body and the brain.
- Relax from head to toe – flex and relax muscles in your body.
- Use positive self-talk – tell yourself things like “this will pass” or “I can do this”.
- Listen to music.
- Move - play or do something active to move your body.
- Take a break – take a walk or splash water on your face.
- Distract yourself with a game or craft.
- Take a squeeze – use a stress ball or hug a stuffed animal.
- Practice mindfulness – focus your mind on an activity to get back to the present. For example, eat a small piece of chocolate - focus on the taste, the smell and the feel of it.
- Reach out – talk to a friend, family member or trusted adult.
Resources/References for Self-Regulation
- Call Health Link Alberta: 811
- Call 211 – Alberta Community resources
- Kids Help Phone: 1 800 668 6868