Hands in a heart shape holding an infinity rainbox. Underneath the words Sandra Bell ND Coach
#5 Co-regulation helps foster self-regulation
  • Co-regulation is sharing your regulation or dysregulation with another.
  • Co-regulation does not require words.
  • The first step to self-regulation is co-regulation.​

Co-regulation is when we share our regulation, or dysregulation, with another. It isn't a conscious decision; it is hard-wired into our brains. I believe that neurodivergent individuals are naturally more attuned to it, and it's why we can be exhausted from just being in the room with a lot of people, as we take on their emotional energy.

Co-regulation does not require words. In fact, words can get in the way. The best way to co-regulate is to be calm in the face of another's dysregulation. We do it without question to a newborn; we coo and rock and soothe, but somehow once a child can talk we stop doing this and ask them to "use their words". If they are dysregulated their thinking brain is offline anyway, and even if it wasn't, what they need most is to feel safe. And we can help them feel safe by co-regulating and sharing our feeling of safety. I find the best way to help my youngest when they are dysregulated, is to take a few deep breaths and calm myself, and then share a space with them with minimal words, usually just "I'm here". And then just be patient and wait. I consciously make my body limp and relax my face muscles.

We want to help our children to be able self-regulate, but this isn't something they can do without having first having us co-regulate and share our regulation with them; many times. As much as they need. As long as they need. This is the first step to self-regulation. It is likely that your neurodivergent child will need more co-regulation than a neurotypical child to be able to self-regulate, as they tend to feel more deeply.

Thanks for reading.

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