Self-Regulation: Everything You Need to Know

Self-regulation refers to the process through which little children become aware of how to direct their own feelings, thoughts, and bodies. It’s a foundational skill of early childhood and allows kids to grow into adults who can manage their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. This requires different skills that work together for a kid to be able to self-regulate. These skills include emotional regulation, sensory processing, attention and concentration, planning and sequencing, executive function, working memory, receptive language skills, and social skills.

There’re lots of reasons to help kids develop self-regulation. Some important ones include:

·         Enhanced emotional intelligence

·         Better learning outcomes at school

·         Cope better with stress

·         Better relationships with others

·         Development of self-discipline skills

·         Staying focused on goals

·         Adapting to changes in the environment

·         Ability to control impulses

Parents should note that self-regulation isn’t something that their kids will magically master one day. It’s a journey and skill that they need to work on daily.

It’s possible to tell if a kid has problems with self-regulation. If kids have difficulties with self-regulation, they may:

·         Have difficulty controlling their own emotional and behavioral responses

·         Appear disinterested or lethargic

·         Have tantrums that continue longer than typical

·         The number of tantrums per day is more than typical

·         Become easily distracted and shows poor concentration and attention

·         Have poor sleep patterns

·         Have delayed social and communication skills and are difficult to engage in two-way interactions

·         Have difficulty in understanding how to play with other kids or prefer to play on their own

·         Have difficulty sustaining friendships and engaging with peers

·         Have difficulty transitioning between tasks or accepting changes in routine

Various activities can help to improve self-regulation in children. Some of these include:

·         Sensory diet to offer sensory feedback to the body that enables improved sensory regulation

·         Activities that have specified start and endpoints, such as construction tasks and puzzles

·         Narrowly focused tasks, such as organizing, categorizing, and sorting activities

·         Visual schedules to enable the children to see and understand what’s going to happen next

If left untreated, self-regulation difficulties may lead to other difficulties. Some of these include:

·         Stress and anxiety in different situations leading to difficulty achieving academic goals

·         Challenges working with others/in small groups for group learning tasks or play

·         Making and keeping friends

If the activities mentioned above don’t help a kid improve self-regulation, parents should consult an occupational therapist.

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