Establishing the Environment

Everyone needs a feeling of safety, no matter the age or stage in life. The home is usually the first foundation of safety for most families. And new parents spend a great deal of time moving throughout the home, making sure the environment their children are exposed to is safe!

A classroom teacher has the same responsibility for maintaining safety. Securing the environment helps children feel comfortable, secure, and capable of success!  As children feel more secure and safe in their environment, whether at home, school, or even after-school, they will begin to assert their own independence.

As children grow, we want them to use their budding independence to learn new skills; practice making new friends; and have confidence at school. Parents can support their children’s autonomy in the following ways:

  • Create consistency in routines and rules. The structure that children grow to expect is a protective factor for their growing independence.
  • Establish expectations for your children and communicate those expectations and consequences to them! When children know what to expect, they can make good decisions knowing their parents will help and support them.
  • Reinforce the good behaviors children exhibit with praise and positive discipline.
  • When consequences are required, communicate honestly and provide rationale for behaviors that are expected. Use natural and logical consequences to help children to make good choices.
  • Take an active interest in your child’s activities and interests.
  • Showing love, warmth, and responding to them with positive feedback will also help them develop their independence.

Be sure to listen to the Science of Parenting podcast to learn more about establishing safe and secure environments at home and away!

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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Tuning in With Temperament

The cell phone is ringing; you are listening to your son practice the piano; dinner is slowly cooking stovetop and the dog is barking at something outdoors. All these competing sounds begging for your attention, all at the same time. This can cause anyone to feel overwhelmed. And when we feel the tug for attention, we may snap in response to a question from our child, or co-parent, or barking puppy!

The need to get re-regulated is necessary so that we can give the attention necessary to our children and the tasks at hand. Our Science of Parenting co-hosts Mackenzie  and Lori have an entire season dedicated to discussing how to define “regulation”, and how to effectively help ourselves and our children when we become dis-regulated”.  Our personal temperament can play a role in helping us to stay regulated, especially when we feel those competing tugs! Don’t forget you can listen here and be sure to follow us on social media including facebook and twitter!

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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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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I’m the Adult Here: My Regulation

Every day brings a new set of demands for busy families. The schedules we keep tell a story of the priorities that challenge us minute-by-minute. Do you ever feel like you are a juggler in a big ring circus? Trying to keep all the cups spinning with a smile on your face? If you ever feel like this, you are not alone. On any given day, parents who have this list of demands will likely feel overwhelmed and need to call upon a strategy or two to let their brains wind down and relax.

The ways in which we learn to relax or prioritize our “to do” list can help others in our family also learn to manage themselves, too! Our children watch us for signs of how to respond when we are feeling emotionally charged. They watch to see how we speak to others, and sometimes we laugh when we hear our children repeat the same language we have used!

Sometimes using the technique of “mindfulness” will help us to re-store our thinking to a calmer attitude. Mindfulness may take the form of several minutes of stillness followed by thoughts of quiet and peace. It may take the form of rest. Parenting is full of daily decisions that are best managed when well rested and supported by our network of social supports!   

Keeping your mind and body regulated is the first step in handling that to do list! For more information on emotional and behavioral regulation, be sure to listen to season 9 of the Science of Parenting! And be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter

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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What is Self-Regulation?

Have you ever been involved in a conversation that was difficult? Where you had trouble keeping your cool? Where you wanted to scream and shout so someone could hear and understand you and your point of view?

Well, all of us from time to time have had this experience. And so it is with parenting too! Sometimes we find ourselves wanting to scream so that others will hear us and our message. Or perhaps your child is the one screaming to be heard. Either way, the emotions that come with the shouting can produce upset for everyone. It is during this upsetting time that the adult in the conversation can practice the STOP. BREATHE. TALK. technique.

This technique is especially useful because when everyone is shouting, no one can be heard, and the communication is shut down. Stopping and taking a few cleansing breaths can be the beginning of repair in the conversation. Then, intentionally thinking about what you want to say in a calm voice, one free of the emotional shouting that produces additional upset, can yield the desired action from yourself or your child.

Modeling this technique for others helps all family members learn to adjust their words and actions so that everyone can be heard and understood.

Learn more about Stop. Breathe. Talk. in Episode 3 – Take a Break and Take a Breath podcast. Be sure to follow the Science of Parenting team on social media, including Twitter and Facebook.

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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Music and Resilience

This morning as I was driving to work, I was listening to the new song, “Youth,” by Shawn Mendes and Khalid. The lyrics spoke about feeling hopeless but not letting pain turn to hate, which really hit me in relation to the last few blogs. The words made me think about experiencing situations that might have a negative effect, but then reminding myself “nope, I’m not going to let those feelings overtake me. I’m going to find ways to overcome this.”

Last week, Mackenzie Johnson talked about the research and reality of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), child abuse prevention, and starting at home.

Often, when talking about ACEs, we get the response of “okay, so what now?”. I’ll be the first to admit that when someone asks me this question on the spot, I get a little clammy trying to decide which resource would be the best fit, how to quickly and effectively respond to meet the needs of their situation, and how I can include all of the crucial pieces without oversimplifying. It’s that step of the process in which we help to build RESILIENCE, but the whole process of trauma informed care can feel complex.

Although there are many ways to reach the end goal, the ACE Interface explains that the structure of a successful trauma-informed community is three-tiered in what they call “Core Protective Systems.” Thriving communities support caring and competent relationships (like a positive parent-child connection), and these relationships support individual capabilities such as self-efficacy and self-regulation.

Individual capabilities lead to a sense of security, the ability to regulate emotion, and adapt to social situations, among other things. It gives us the ability to step back and say the words that were echoed in song, as I heard this morning.

Individual capabilities also give us the ability to know which tools work best to help us express self-regulation, like listening to music – but I’ll talk more about that next week.

Mackenzie DeJong

Aunt of four unique kiddos. Passionate about figuring how small brains develop, process, and differ. Human Sciences Specialist, Family Life in western Iowa with a B.S. in Family and Consumer Sciences and Design minor.

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