Parenting is the hardest job there is. It is unrealistic to think and expect that we, as parents, are always emotionally regulated! Life is complicated and stressful. Yet, research supports the idea that the more emotionally regulated the parent or caregiver is, the healthier the “climate” is in the family.
Self-regulation is the ability to modulate the intensity and expression of our emotions and physiological responses. In order to effectively regulate our emotions and physiological responses, we need to monitor, recognize and adapt our emotions and bodily reactions to our circumstances. Research consistently shows that self-regulation is a necessary skill for our emotional, physical, and social well-being.
Infants do not have the ability to regulate their emotional arousal and need their parents’ soothing presence to help them manage their arousal, fear, frustration, and anger. Infants and young children learn to soothe themselves by having their physical and emotional needs met and by being in contact with their caregivers. Bessel van der Kolk (2005) asserts that a parent’s “primary function” is to help their child learn to manage their own arousal. When children are emotional upset and encounter a calming response from their parents, they learn how to relax and begin to build a basis for trust and safety within themselves and in their relationships. Over time, a child begins to internalize the expectation of a soothing response which provides a foundation for learning self-regulation.
“How we experience the world, relate to others, and find meaning in life are dependent on how we have come to regulate our emotions (Seigel, 1999)” Children look to their parents to understand their own responses and to feel safe. The overall “emotional climate” within a family is a good predictor of a child’s ability to self-manage their feelings. In general, a positive emotional climate is consistently linked to children feeling more emotional safety and acceptance. When the emotional climate is negative, distressing or unpredictable, children tend to be more reactive and emotionally insecure. For more info on regulation and child development check out this article.
We believe it is important for parents to focus on their self-care, their regulation, and for them to get the support they need to be the best parents they can be. As are result, we developed a workshop that is experiential, supportive, and informative with a focus on building a supportive community and parental self-care and regulation.