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School, Self Regulation and the Roadmap to Calm

Posted 16 March 2021

It’s been just over a week since that interview. Not Oprah, the one where you looked your child’s teacher square in the eye and sincerely asked them how they cope with all the new maths calculation methods. Yes, schools in England have finally re-opened. Goodbye home-schooling and hello peace. For many though, the transition back to the classroom has not been simple.

If going into school again has made a child you care for more anxious, there are lots of ideas which can help. They all encourage self-regulation – a roadmap to emotional strength and calmness.

Self, or emotional, regulation is the ability to recognise and control our emotions and behaviour. It allows us to calm ourselves if we are upset, deal with frustration and cope with change. It can help us to make friends, achieve goals and generally be happier people. Without it we are prone to meltdowns and negative behaviours. It is a learnt skill though, not an automatic development - which means it can be difficult for cared-for children to master. As we grow, we observe the emotional coping skills of our carers and often foster children will not have had the best examples. It’s never too late to learn though.

With changes to how school looks, the routine of lessons, seeing friends again, being in bubbles and even facing bullies, returning to the classroom has brought a whole host of opportunities for anxiety with it. If a child you care for is struggling with this or other big emotions, here are three tips to help teach them the art of self-regulation and staying calm.

Firstly, encourage them to talk about their feelings. The aim of self-regulation is to successfully acknowledge and deal with emotions, not suppress them. It’s important to reassure children that anxiety is not a ‘bad’ emotion, but a valid feeling.

Modelling successful self-regulation is also key. None of us nail this every time, but when children see adults positively dealing with negative emotions, they learn valuable lessons. You may be the first positive emotional role model a child has experienced.

Finally, provide activities which can help a child to calm themselves. This way, they can practise putting their new knowledge into action. Given it’s difficult to talk during a tantrum, choose a moment when your child is calm and discuss different things which might help them when they are feeling anxious. Breathing slowly, blowing bubbles, colouring-in, dancing and the 5-4-3-2-1 challenge are all great ideas, but every child is unique and will have their own special choices.

If you need some inspiration, we love these 75 Awesome Calm Down Strategies for Kids. Once you’ve decided on a few activities, write them down and display the list. Then, whenever your child is feeling anxious, they can choose an activity and own their calming strategy. Self-regulation training at its finest.

We all feel anxious at times, but if school or anything else has made it a particular problem for a child in your care, learning self-regulation really could be a roadmap to calmness. If you need more advice, just contact us – we’d love to hear from you.