Big Feelings: The Training Ground for Self-Regulation.

Wherever our nervous systems are, theirs will follow. We will co-regulate or co-dysregulate.

When we meet their big feelings with frustration or anger, it doubles the already unbearable emotional temperature of the room and drives the brain into bigger distress (fight or flight).

They will either catch the emotional heat and go bigger (fight), or escape it by shutting down (flight).

Our job is to bring the temperature down by meeting their distress with an anchor presence -steady, attached, grounded.

The problem with traditional ‘discipline’.

Traditional discipline (time-out, punishment, shouty voices, shame) uses emotional or physical separation as a way to bring children back to calm. But here’s the rub: Children can’t come back to calm on their own. It also squanders an opportunity for us to build their capacity to self-regulate in healthy ways.

These strategies might look like they work, but we have to not confuse a quiet child for a calm child.

From co-regulation to self-regulation.

It takes lots of time and experience to build the neural pathways that will support self-regulation. Those pathways build through co-regulation. This provides children with the actual experience of coming back to calm safely, without having to shut their feelings down or put themselves away.

When we leave them to come back to calm on their own, we’re leaving them to do the work that adults are best placed to do. We might not be able to do this all the time – we’re human too – and that’s okay, but it’s important we do it whenever we can.

Every time a child goes into distress, their young brain is calling to the adult in the room to lead it back to calm. It’s as though the brain is saying, ‘Can you show me how to do this regulation thing. I’ll need to practice lots with you before I can do it on my own.’

Big feelings are not an interruption (though it can certainly feel that way!) and they absolutely not a bad child or bad parenting. Big feelings are the training ground for self-regulation, and co-regulation IS the work that will build this.



What about when most of the disregulation happens because the 9 yr old doesn’t get his desires met?

Karen Young

This is very normal. This counts as ‘missing out on something important’. It’s his job to hit the boundaries to discover where the edges are. It’s ours to hold the boundaries lovingly and gently. You’ll find a number of articles here on how to do this.

Karen Young

This is very normal. It’s their job to hit the boundaries to discover where the edges are. It’s our job as parents and carers to hold those boundaries lovingly, and help them back to calm through co-regulation. You’ll find many articles on this site to guide you through how.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Follow Hey Sigmund on Instagram

Honestly isn’t this the way it is for all of us though?♥️

#childanxiety #parenting #separationanxiety
Big feelings can be so beautiful. And so tricky. 

We want our kids to know that all feelings are okay, and we also want to support them to handle those feelings in positive ways. This is going to take time. We were all born with feelings, but none of us were born able to regulate those feelings. That will come with time and lots (lots!) of experience. 

In the meantime, the way we respond to their big feelings and the not-so-adorable behaviour it can drive, can be key in nurturing their social and emotional growth. So let’s talk about how.

Proactive Parents is a community event hosted by @mindfullaus . I’ll be providing parents, caregivers and educators with the skills and tools to better understand big feelings and the behaviour it fuels.

Understanding how to respond when young people are overwhelmed can drive calm and connection over conflict. Ultimately, our responses have enormous potential to build important neural pathways that will strengthen them for life.

This presentation will explore the powerful ways parents and carers can, quite literally, influence the strengthening of the brain in ways that will build self-control, emotional regulation, and resilience in their children for life.♥️

When: Sunday 25 Feb 2024, 10am-2pm
Where: West Gippsland Arts Centre, Vic
Buy Tickets here:
(Or Google: karen young young people and their big feelings west gippsland)
We have to change the way we think about school. When we prioritise academics, it's like building the walls - because that's what we see - before fortifying the foundations.

So many teachers know this, but with the increased focus on reporting and academics, they aren't being given the time and opportunity to build the relationships that will ensure those foundations are strong and steady.

This is why too many kids are falling down at school - not because they aren't capable, but because the necessary foundations for them to do well haven't been laid.

Schools are spending the resources anyway, but reactively on behaviour management, disengagement, reduced capacity to learn.

If we can steer those resources towards building relational safety, so kids feel more seen, valued, cared for, rather than less capable or clever, we'll see a decrease increased academic success, greater engagement, less social struggles, and less behaviour issues. It's just how it is.

First though, we need to value relationships and the way kids feel at school, even more than how they do at school. All kids are capable of their own versions of greatness, but unless they feel safe and cared for at school, we just won't see what they are capable of, and neither will they.❤️
We also need to make sure our teachers feel seen, safe, cared for, valued. Our kids can’t be the best they can be without them.♥️
Separation can be tough! Not just for our kiddos but also for the adults who love them. 

As brutal as separation anxiety can feel, it also comes with transformative opportunities to strengthen your child and build their brave in ways that will serve them now and for the rest of their lives. 

Of course we’d rather our young ones (or ourselves) never feel the tailwhip of separation anxiety, but so many young people are going to experience anxiety at separation from a loved one. It’s part of being human, but it doesn’t have to hurt. 

As their important adult, you have a profound capacity to support them through separation anxiety and help them feel braver, stronger, and closer to you, even when you’re not beside them. Let’s talk about how.

This is information I wish every parent could have.

We want our children to feel loved and supported, but we also want to build their brave so anxiety doesn’t stand in the way of the important, growthful things they need to do.

In this 1.5 hour webinar, I’ll be presenting practical, powerful ways to build bravery when separation feels tough - at school, at bedtime, at drop-off - any time being away from you feels tough.

A recording of the webinar will be available to all registered participants for 30 days following the ‘live’ online event.

To register or find out more, google ‘hey sigmund webinar separation anxiety’ or see here ♥️

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This