Quick tips to help with self-regulation
- Quick tip 1Watch out for triggers.Watch out for triggers.
Think through which situations create stress or cause outbursts. Is it loud places, bright lights, or other sensory information? Is it when plans or routines change? Knowing the triggers helps you avoid or prepare for tricky situations.
- Quick tip 2Use a frustration signal.Use a frustration signal.
Come up with a signal that means “I need a break to calm down.” Kids can use it to alert parents, teachers, and others around them. If you struggle with self-regulation, explain the signal to others so they know what it means when you use it.
- Quick tip 3Speak up.Speak up.
Even when you know you’re getting overwhelmed, it can still be hard to restrain the impulse to get loudly upset. This is especially true for kids. Encourage them to tell you what they’re feeling so you can talk through ways to cope.
- Quick tip 4Take small steps.Take small steps.
Learning to self-regulate takes time. Work on setting and meeting small self-regulation goals. Build up to being more in control of emotions and reactions.
Self-regulation is a skill that allows people to manage their emotions, behavior, and body movement when they’re faced with a tough situation. It also allows them to do that while staying focused and paying attention.
Lots of kids and adults struggle with self-regulation. They act impulsively in an emotional situation. And after the fact, they can say what they should have done instead.
It’s easy to confuse self-regulation with self-control. They’re related, but they’re not the same. Self-control is mainly a social skill.
Self-regulation, on the other hand, is like a thermostat. A thermostat kicks on or off to keep a room at a certain temperature, or a “set point.” It tracks temperature changes, compares them to the set point, and “knows” whether to heat or cool the room.
We all have a self-regulation set point. To maintain that level of control, we need to:
- Keep track of changes in our environment
- Assess how we’re feeling and reacting
- Compare it to our set point
- Adjust to get back to that point
Self-regulation is a skill that develops over time. People who struggle with it have trouble figuring out what will help them calm down when they get upset. They have a hard time being flexible when things change and might react with frustrated outbursts. It all has to do with how people process information that comes in from their senses.