Children, just like adults, feel stress. Here’s the challenge for parents. Your child’s stress is often different from yours and it may be difficult to understand why your child reacts to situations, sounds, or sensory experiences in ways that seem confounding! When your little one is frustrated, feels threatened, uncomfortable or frightened (real or imagined), the part of their brain that acts as a stress monitor swoops in to “save the day”! This “jumpy superhero” is called the amygdala and is located in the limbic system, which processes complex information like our emotions and memories.
Co-Regulating, when your little one’s amygdala is upset, is important in helping them to get through their initial fight, flight, and freeze response. Co-Regulation might begin with cuddling your little one close and gently massaging their back while speaking in a calm and loving tone. Staying in the moment with your child, empathizing with facial gestures, calmly mirroring what they feel and accepting the expression of their feelings will help your little one to (eventually) to return to a state of calm.
Over time, and with your predictable and loving support, your little one will build memories that will help them begin to regulate their own stress responses when their “jumpy superhero” takes off. This takes years of practice for you and your child! Be assured, your loving response to soothe your child’s upset is always a good first step to helping them to feel secure and eventually being able to manage their big feelings on their own...Growing Together One Step at a Time!