start to calm down as well. “It’s calledco-regulation,” Blair says. “It’s whenyou are both calm that you’ll be able tohelp them find other ways to show theiremotions.”
Children need their parents (and theother adults in their lives) to be a safehaven—a place where they can turn forunderstanding and comfort so they cansettle and return to exploring the world.
They need you to understand theirfeelings.
Some children like to be held whenthey feel out of control; others want ahug only after calming. Some may needsome time with you or to be near youin a quieter place. One helpful tip sheet,Repairing Relationships with a Time-In( circleofsecurity.org), puts it this way:Whenever possible follow your child’sneed.
With a son who struggles to keep hisemotions in check, Nicole Homick hasample opportunity to practise empathy.Drawing on her training as an earlychildhood educator, she’ll get down tohis level, look him in the eye and saysomething like, “I see you’re angry. CanI help?” As she puts it, “I see these smallincidents as little drops in the largerbucket of long-term goals for how I wantmy children to live.”
Acknowledge the physical.
“Young children need help regulatingtheir bodies as well as their emotions,”says Dr. Carole Anne Hapchyn, aninfant and early childhood psychiatrist.She’s experienced in NeuroRelationalFramework, a way of describing howbrains develop and function. A stressedchild can be surprised when theirvoice shakes, heart races, legs flail andbody sweats. “Understanding thoseresponses can go a long way towardhelping children learn to regulate theiremotions,” she says.
Toddlers are just beginning to learn
that they have emotions, let alone how
to describe or control them. Rather
than making them apologize for what
they can’t understand, equip them
with language. The NeuroRelational
Framework uses colours as cues: green
for cruising calmly along, red for sped-
up agitation; blue for slowing down and
Colour zones have become valuable
shorthand for Homick’s family, at home
and at school.
“When children have ‘flipped theirlid’ and tipped into that red zone, theirthinking brain disengages, and all they’reusing is their feeling brain,” Homick
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says. “I know to be quiet then—just be
a presence. ‘Connect before correct’—I
run that through my mind like a mantra.
That child needs compassion to get back
into the green zone. Then you can work
through the problem together.”
It’s crucial for children to experience
the full range of emotions, Blair says.
“There’s no such thing as a bad feeling.
Our role is to help our children respond
to their own and others’ feelings in ways
that don’t hurt and to help them grow. It
takes practice. And a lot of patience.”|a
Healthy Parents, Healthy Children––Alberta Health Services’ resources for
pregnancy and parenting in the early years. Healthyparentshealthychildren.ca
Circle of Security International: Resources for raising a secure child, including
Repairing Relationships with a Time-In tip sheet. circleofsecurity.org