Regulation in Stages

Living life is a series of experiences that can trigger our emotions – both positive and negative, depending on the situation! No matter our age, we all find ourselves in situations where our emotions are on display. The emotions can be happiness, excitement, scared, frustration, or even anger. The older we are, the more life experiences we have had. Experiences often teach us how to navigate those emotional situations. The people in our life are also valuable resources to help us manage whatever emotion we may find ourselves in.  

New parents may be curious about how to help their infants when they express those big emotions from hunger, thirst, or even signaling a diaper change is needed! Infants attune their attention to their caregivers and will find they learn to trust that caregiver, to provide the attention to meet their needs. Attachment is at the core of this understanding. According to Alan Sroufe, Developmental Psychologist at the Institute for Child Development at the University of Minnesota “Attachment is a relationship in the service of a baby’s emotion regulation and exploration”.

As a parent, it may be difficult to remain calm and regulated upon hearing a screaming baby. The noise alone can trigger upset in the entire home. Parents soon learn to recognize the different noises and can quickly anticipate the baby’s needs. As children age, parents will again have to navigate the tide of emotions and work to bring everyone back into regulation.

Parents can support their child through these three broad categories:

  • Provide love, warmth, connection, and responsiveness
  • Structure a safe environment for the child who is trying to get re-regulated
  • Teach self-regulation skills, and be a good model of self-regulation skills.

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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