Are you concerned that your child is dysregulated right now? Are they having endless tantrums and don’t appear to be triggered by anything? Their moods are up and down, and they never seem to be able to stay calm? Do they seem distracted and fidgety? These types of behaviours may be typical. Therapists use this term to describe developmentally inappropriate behaviour rather than labelling a particular disorder. How come?
Do you know that children are not born with the ability to self-regulate? As a result, their brains develop this capacity until they are 25 years old. Consequently, children struggle to self-regulate, and this behaviour is normal between 18 months and three years of age. Some children continue to have behavioural problems well into adulthood, explaining why you want to seek help now.
What is Self/Emotional Regulation?
When does it start?
The process starts pretty soon after birth. Children can’t manage immense feelings until they’re four, so keep that in mind when frustrated with your three-year-old. Babies experience their first emotions through you. Your baby feels string feelings and sensations and cannot understand what is happening.
You can help him by trying to understand him, comforting him, and explaining his feelings to him. By mirroring their feelings, you allow them to feel understood and contained.
Soothing your baby enables them to relax and calm down, and then they learn how to do this for themselves; this is what we call self-soothing/regulating. It is a process that continues for a long time (up until 25).
Click on the video below to learn more about your Child’s brain and to have some more ideas on parenting: I have had lots of lovely feedback on how helpful the video is; please share it with someone who might help.
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Why do some children struggle?
There are many reasons. Some children are born with a certain temperament, and they may be harder to soothe as babies. The environment can play a part, too, in combination with neurodevelopmental disorders such as ADHD and ASC or processing and learning issues such as Dyslexia or Dyspraxia. Anxiety and trauma play a role, too; some children are born with a sensitive Amygdala. In addition, their attachment style may have a part;
Many parents unintentionally prevent their children from learning how to self-regulate. Sometimes parents lovingly attend to their child’s feelings at all times, which leads to the child not knowing how to.
For further understanding of how to manage tantrums, this is a free talk I gave during the lockdown.
When do I need to be worried if my child is presenting as dysregulated?
Each child’s brain develops at a different rate. There is less capacity to think in a three-year-old than in a seven-year-old. It is usual for children to experience emotional dysregulation at times, but you may need to seek help if they:
- Have constant tantrums and meltdowns that last for hours
- Struggle if a routine is changed
- Find transitions hard
- Struggle within the school and home environment
- Are distracted and distracting
- Up and down moods, never seem to be just calm
Remember that your child is in distress. Therefore, limits are needed, and understanding and options to calm them down. When children present in this way, they operate on their “lower downstairs brain” ( Limbic and Reptilian Brains ), which means they must learn how to calm down this system. Contact me for a consultation if you are struggling.