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What is Emotional Regulation and Co-Regulation and Why is it Important?

We are all born with emotional responses, and sometimes our emotions tend to get the best of us, triggering impulsive actions. The ability to control and regulate our emotions is an important skill that will allow us and our children to fully participate in activities that are meaningful to them. The goal of emotional regulation is to allow the child to have a wide range of feelings and still be able to behave appropriately in different situations.

Emotional Regulation:

  • Emotional regulation refers to a child’s ability to independently and effectively respond to emotional experiences to make good decisions.


  • Co-regulation is when children tend to look after a parent and/or caregiver for warm interactions and guidance that support the child’s emotional decision. The ability to co-regulate allows the child to understand and express his/her feelings, thoughts and behaviors under the guidance of the parent.

  • Fun fact! Children learn to self-regulate through co-regulation with parents, teachers, and peers. Some children may learn to self-regulate by the age of 7, however, most children may still need help and guidance!

How Can Parents Support Emotional Regulation?

The caregiver’s goal in emotional regulation is to be supportive of the child when they are experiencing a wide range of emotions.

  • Try using this acronym! (VERB)

    • Validate the child’s feelings

    • Empathize with the child’s feelings

    • Restate the boundary or rules

  • If your child is upset or frustrated, try this:

    • Before intervening, can the child figure out how to manage his/her emotion on their own?

    • Give subtle but obvious hints to help them find a solution on their own! “I wonder if…”

  • If your child is having a “meltdown” or “temper tantrum”, try this:

    • The goal is to not change their feelings but support them and make them feel safe

    • Use the acronym VERB

    • Offer assistance in a yes/no format

      • If the child says “no”, then respond with “Ok that is fine, let me know when you are ready” and wait for them to come to you.

  • After the child calms down, try this:

    • Review what happened during the “meltdown”

      • What happened? What was upsetting the child? How did we get past it? What can we try next time?

      • Model coping strategies to support co-regulation

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