Handling Dysregulation

Typically when our children are dysregulated or having a tantrum, we want to quickly shut it down.

Tell me, when was the last time you were able to calm down when someone told you so? I bet never.

When our children are dysregulated (this will happen more often during this time of distance learning and social distancing) it is important to understand the brain mechanisms behind this.

  • The amygdala or the emotion center of our brain, has taken over.
  • This means our frontal lobe, the decision making/rational thought part of our brain, is offline - we cannot access it.
  • Therefore, when we are dysregulated and our emotions have flooded our brain, we are really unable to reason effectively.

When this happens to our children, the best we can do is the following:

  • Allow the episode, invite it and accept it.
  • Provide a safe space for the episode to occur (a safe part of your home).
  • Validate your child's feelings - "I bet your are really frustrated and confused right now," "it's ok to feel this way, just let it out and take your time."
  • Offer assistance to calm if desired; offer to breathe together, count slowly, or engage in a deep pressure hug.
  • Wait patiently until your child is able to reason - this may take a while and require much patience on your part.
  • Regulate yourself - try to stay calm during this uncomfortable episode; it will be the best thing you can do for your child in this moment.