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  • Writer's picturePaula Robertson

The importance of co-regulation as parents

Co-regulation is an important skill in parenting; but what is it, and how do we practise it?

Co-regulation is an essential aspect of parenting that involves a caregiver providing support and guidance to help a child manage their emotions and behavior. It is the process by which a child learns to regulate their own emotions and behaviors by relying on the support and guidance of a trusted adult, and it's important for several reasons:

Emotional development: Co-regulation helps children develop their emotional skills by teaching them how to manage and express their feelings appropriately.

Cognitive development: Co-regulation also plays a crucial role in developing a child's cognitive skills, such as attention, memory, and problem-solving.

Social development: Co-regulation helps children learn how to interact with others in a positive and productive way, which is important for social development.

Attachment: Co-regulation strengthens the attachment bond between the caregiver and child, which is important for building a secure and healthy relationship.

Stress reduction: Co-regulation can help children manage stress and anxiety by providing a safe and supportive environment where they can express their feelings and receive comfort and guidance.

Overall, co-regulation is an important aspect of parenting that can help children develop essential skills and build strong relationships with their caregivers. So how do we start to practice co-regulation with our children? Basically, this involves creating a supportive and nurturing environment where you can guide them in managing their emotions and behaviors; think of it as ongoing learning. Here are some strategies to help you practice co-regulation:

Be present and attentive: Pay attention to your child's emotional cues and be present in the moment when they are expressing their feelings. Show empathy and understanding by actively listening and validating their emotions.

Model self-regulation: Children learn by observing and imitating their caregivers. Show them how you manage your own emotions in a healthy way, such as taking deep breaths or using positive self-talk when you feel upset. This modeling helps them learn to regulate their own emotions.

Provide a safe space for expression: Create a safe and non-judgmental environment where your child feels comfortable expressing their feelings openly. Encourage them to talk about what they are experiencing and validate their emotions without dismissing or minimizing them.

Use emotional language: Help your child develop a vocabulary to express their emotions. Label their feelings and help them understand different emotions. This helps them develop emotional awareness and communication skills.

Teach calming techniques: Teach your child relaxation techniques like deep breathing, counting to ten, or engaging in a calming activity such as drawing or listening to soothing music. Practice these techniques together when they are upset or overwhelmed.

Set clear boundaries and expectations: Establish clear and consistent boundaries for behavior while also allowing your child to express their emotions. Help them understand appropriate ways to express themselves and guide them towards alternative behaviors when needed.

Offer guidance and problem-solving: Help your child navigate challenging situations by providing guidance and problem-solving skills. Teach them how to identify the problem, explore potential solutions, and make informed decisions.

Celebrate successes and progress: Recognize and celebrate your child's efforts and successes in self-regulation. Positive reinforcement and encouragement can motivate them to continue practicing co-regulation.

Remember, co-regulation is an ongoing process, and it may take time for your child to develop self-regulation skills. Be patient, understanding, and consistent in your approach, and prioritize building a strong and trusting relationship with your child.

Be well, Paula

Dr Paula Robertson is a busy mom and a paediatrician with over twenty years' experience working with young people and their families. She is also a certified children's mindfulness teacher and Positive Discipline Parenting coach. You can find out more at

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