In a previous post, there was a general guide for supporting families as they support the development of self-regulation skills of their young growing child.
It is first suggested that your own wellness is primary, as a parent or practitioner. Exercise, eat healthy, use your network of family and friends to talk to and garner their feedback and emotional support. Allow yourself time to regenerate, rejuvenate and reflect to perform at your best.
When working with families, these tips will enable you to empower them and help them model skills that demonstrate self-regulation skills to their child:
#1: Establish a strong relationship with each family.
- Take time to understand the family’s culture and their goals for the child and incorporate their values and preferences into your work with them.
- Listen openly to the caregiver’s concerns, and work collaboratively to address them. Start with their needs and ideas, and together identify approaches to address their concerns.
- Empower caregivers and help build their sense of competence by identifying their strengths, recognizing their efforts and providing encouragement.
- Use family engagement tools and reflective strategies to help you build strong relationships with each of your families.
#2: Help caregivers build their own self-regulation capacity.
- Help caregivers understand that strengthening their own self-regulation skills will have positive benefits
on their children’s self-regulation development. Share with them the benefits of mindfulness practices
for their own well-being as well as the caregiver-child relationship.
- Work with caregivers to identify sources of stress and ways to lessen the impact of stress on themselves and their children as much as possible. Talk through life’s day-to-day challenges and help them come up with solutions to reduce the stressors when possible. Connect them with local services and supports as needed.
- Coach caregivers on how to identify and manage their own emotions during stressful situations. For example, they might take their own “time out” to calm down or talk with a friend about solutions before acting to address a problem. This will enable them to respond to their children in a more positive and thoughtful way and will model self-regulation strategies.
- Pay attention to the possibility of underlying mental health issues, such as depression or substance misuse, which are common responses to ongoing stress and adversity. Provide emotional support for the caregivers, and connect them with mental health resources and local services when needed.
- Address possible risk factors and build protective factors for child maltreatment or neglect. Understand
the various factors that may increase the chances for child abuse and neglect, and promote protective
factors. If you have specific concerns, use available tools to prevent or respond if necessary.
#3: Support and strengthen the caregiver-child relationship.
- Help caregivers understand that having a warm and responsive relationship with their child is the most important part of the child’s environment that shapes brain development, and is the cornerstone of effective co-regulation.
- Help caregivers appreciate their child’s unique personality, and assist them in identifying,
understanding, and responding to their child’s cues and behaviors. This Social Emotional Foundations for Early Learning (SEFEL) guide can help caregivers learn what to expect and how to understand behaviors in children from birth to age 2. This temperament assessment tool may help you and the caregiver support their child’s unique traits.
- Guide caregivers in providing warm and responsive care using daily caregiving routines, such as feeding, diapering, and bathing. Predictable and sensitive care will help establish trust and a positive connection between the caregiver and child.
- Engage caregivers in playful interactions with their children using simple materials in the home and during normal daily routines. Model warm and responsive play when you interact with their child.
#4: Help caregivers cultivate calm and structured home environments.
- Help parents and caregivers understand how a child’s environment and experiences can influence
behavior. When children experience more stress than they can handle, this may lead to “acting out” behaviors, signaling that they feel overwhelmed and need support. Parents and caregivers can prevent some problem behaviors by buffering key stressors through warm, responsive relationships and consistent, positive routines and structure.
- Work with caregivers to establish family rituals and routines that facilitate positive interactions with the child. Help the caregivers understand how routines and structure help children feel calm and safe and can provide a sense of security during stressful moments.
- Support basic parenting skills development to enhance the safety and wellbeing of the child and to boost the caregivers’ self-confidence. See this example 7-step format for coaching caregivers in a way that is
supportive and non-critical.
- Coach the caregivers in positive, responsive parenting. Encourage and reinforce caregivers’ sensitivity and responsiveness to their child’s behavior, and model positive behavior management in your interactions with the child.
#5: Help caregivers learn how to respond with both warmth and structure during stressful moments.
- Help caregivers practice positive discipline and maintain a warm relationship while setting limits.
For children of all ages, caregivers should remain calm during stressful moments and while enforcing rules.
For children who are preschool-aged and older, brief and logical consequences will help encourage positive
behavior, especially when this is done in the context of a positive relationship with the child. Providing consistent structure and calmness will help children continuously improve their self-regulation abilities.
- Help caregivers work with their children during calm moments to develop self-regulation skills that they can use when they experience upsetting situations. For example, the Social Emotional Foundations for Early Learning (SEFEL) initiative provides activities, scripted stories and a caregiver’s guide that can help a child learn positive behaviors and how to react calmly when upset.
- Provide tools caregivers can use to address challenging behaviors in preschool-aged children. These teaching tools and behavior management tools provide ready-to-use ideas and materials to help young children with challenging behavior.
#6: Support positive family relationships and community connections.
- Model respect and compassion in your relationships with the children, the caregivers, and with other adults. Help the caregivers understand that their relationships with other individuals provide an
example that will influence how children learn to interact with others.
- If there are multiple children in the family, help the caregivers identify strategies to support positive sibling relationships. For example, spending quality one-on-one time with each child for even 15 minutes a day can reduce sibling competition for attention. Caregivers can also mediate sibling conflicts to help the children understand each other’s perspectives and learn social problem-solving skills.
- Consider group sessions that bring together mothers, fathers, co-parents, or other caregivers to encourage families to connect as a community. Use these sessions to help all caregivers understand the importance of their relationships with the child and to share co-regulation approaches.
- Take advantage of opportunities to support relationship-building with others in the community. Socializing with other families can strengthen relationships within and between families. For
preschoolers, play groups or outings can support development of relationships with peers and other
adults. Group activities can also help caregivers establish supportive relationships with other parents
- Help caregivers talk to their preschool aged and older children about how to be a good friend to their peers. For one example, see the “I Can Be a Super Friend” story from SEFEL’s Scripted Stories for Social Situations.