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Nervous system regulation for parents and kids

We have all experienced it! Out of nowhere, our child loses their cool over that seems to us to be a small thing. Perhaps it’s a meltdown while you are out grocery shopping, or an uncharacteristic, “Oh no, is that MY kid who just did that?” behaviour at the playground.

As parents, we can be flooded with reactions ourselves. It could be a feeling of internal or external judgment, or we leap to a panic reaction of wondering, “How do I make this stop right now?”

If you take a few moments to pause in these situations, you’d begin to recognise that everything starts and resets in the body. That these outward behaviours are just the external route through which our nervous system and our emotional energy are expressing.

The nervous system is responsible for regulating our response to stress and emotions. When the nervous system is regulated, we feel calm, focused, and able to cope with whatever life throws our way. However, when the nervous system is dysregulated, we may feel anxious, overwhelmed, or even shut down. This can be particularly challenging for parents and children, as stress and emotions can be amplified in a family environment.

The latest findings in neuroscience show that we know that at the root of hitting, yelling, talking back, meltdowns, trouble falling asleep and more, indicate that the body is in a state of stress.

In this state our nervous systems are overloaded and the body is having a difficult time maintaining a state of regulation. In other words, the behaviours are a reflection of the body saying, “I do not feel safe right now.”

Whether this is perceived or real, is down to the situation and the child.

Let’s jump back to Biology 101to understand what is going on. We have two branches in the autonomic nervous system: the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system is designed to help us in fight or flight.

In a properly functioning system it would turn on when there is a real threat or danger and then regulate back to homeostasis. The parasympathetic nervous system on the other hand, is designed to help us shift from this fight, flight or freeze response and bring calm and relaxation back to the body.

In our high tech, high activity, “always on” society, it is not surprising that kids’ nervous systems are being triggered frequently, and many times they do not have the support or tools to regulate their bodies.

Below, we will explore some techniques for nervous system regulation that parents and kids can use together.

  1. Mindful Breathing: Mindful breathing is a simple but effective technique for regulating the nervous system. By focusing on the breath and slowing down our breathing rate, we can activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes relaxation and calm. Parents and kids can practice mindful breathing together by taking a few deep breaths and focusing on the sensation of the breath moving in and out of the body.

  2. Yoga: Yoga is another effective way to regulate the nervous system. Yoga poses, or asanas, can help release tension in the body and activate the parasympathetic nervous system. Parents and kids can practice yoga together by following a yoga video or attending a family yoga class.

  3. Sensory Play: Sensory play is a fun and engaging way to regulate the nervous system. By engaging the senses, we can stimulate the nervous system in a positive way and promote relaxation and calm. Parents and kids can engage in sensory play together by playing with sensory bins, making slime, or engaging in other sensory activities.

  4. Nature Walks: Spending time in nature can have a calming effect on the nervous system. Parents and kids can take a walk together in a park or forest and focus on the sights, sounds, and smells of nature. This can help reduce stress and promote relaxation.

  5. Gratitude Practice: Practicing gratitude can help regulate the nervous system by shifting our focus to the positive aspects of our lives. Parents and kids can practice gratitude together by taking turns sharing things they are grateful for, or by keeping a gratitude journal.

Nervous system regulation is an important skill for parents and kids to cultivate. By practicing techniques like mindful breathing, yoga, sensory play, nature walks, and gratitude, parents and kids can promote relaxation and calm in their daily lives. By working together to regulate their nervous systems, parents and kids can build stronger connections and promote overall well-being.

If you feel that you need help, please reach out and let’s chat about how we can work together to set your child up for success.

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