Co-Regulation and Self-Regulation: The Two Fold Effect
Let’s talk emotional regulation! Emotional regulation encompasses the ability to manage and filter big emotions and respond to emotional experiences. Emotional regulation is further divided into two main areas; co-regulation and self-regulation. In order for a child to be able to independently regulate their emotions, they first need to experience co-regulation.
Co-regulation is a term used to describe the process of relying on external, meaningful relationships to manage and filter emotions. Co-regulation occurs when a child is provided with warm and responsive interactions with their caregivers through basic needs including, food, touch, feelings of safety and comfort. Co-regulation is imperative in overall development as it is one of the core foundations of cognitive functioning.
Through co-regulation we learn how to communicate and manage our feelings based on our caregiver’s response to our expressions of negative emotions. These skills are imperative and hold the basis for self-regulation. Which leads us to our next question, what is self-regulation?
Self-regulation is the ability to manage your emotions without intervention from external factors or reliance on others. This includes being able to recognise a stressor, adapt or develop a plan to return to a regulated state, reflect on a situation and develop strategies to restore the emotional state. It is important to understand that emotions must be felt and experienced.
Emotions are not positive or negative and what’s important is how we deal with these emotions which emphasises the importance of self-regulation. Ultimately, in order to be able to self-regulate, you need to be able to co-regulate. It is important to note that a child cannot co-regulate successfully if their caregiver has reduced capacity to self-regulate. Looking after ourselves will ultimately prioritise the overall health and development of our children as well, so schedule in that self-care day!
Gabor Mate, a speaker and author well known for his expertise in trauma, stress and childhood development says ‘safety is not the absence of threat. It is the presence of connection” and in order to be in a calm and alert state for learning, we need to feel safe and regulated, which stems from the solid foundation of co-regulation.