Put Your Oxygen Mask On First: Self Regulation Tools for Parents


We believe it is important for parents to focus on their self-care, their regulation, and for them to get the support they need to be the best parents they can be.  As are result, we developed a workshop that is experiential, supportive, and informative with a focus on building a supportive community and parental self-care and regulation.

We know that parenting is the hardest job there is. It is unrealistic to think and expect that we, as parents, are always emotionally regulated!  Life is complicated and stressful.  Yet, research supports the idea that the more emotionally regulated the parent or caregiver is, the healthier the “climate” is in the family.  The ability to self-regulate doesn’t often come naturally to us as parents.  It’s possible we did not come from an environment that was calm, safe, nurturing, and predictable.  As a result, we may not have the tools we need to calm ourselves while also being present for our child when they need soothing and atunement.  

Self-regulation is the ability to modulate the intensity and expression of our emotions and physiological responses. In order to effectively regulate our emotions and physiological responses, we need to monitor, recognize and adapt our emotions and bodily reactions to our circumstances. Research consistently shows that self-regulation is a necessary skill for our emotional, physical, and social well-being.

Children are not born with the natural ability to regulate their emotional arousal and need their parents’ soothing presence to help them manage their arousal, fear, frustration, and anger. Infants and young children learn to soothe themselves through interaction with their caregivers and having having their physical and emotional needs met. Bessel van der Kolk (2005) asserts that a parent’s “primary function” is to help their child learn to manage their own arousal. When children are upset and encounter a calming response from their parents, they learn how to settle and begin to build a basis for trust and safety within themselves and in their relationships. Over time, a child begins to internalize the expectation of a soothing response which provides a foundation for learning self-regulation.

How we regulate our emotions and physiology becomes the foundation for how we experience the world, relate to others, and find meaning in life (Seigel, 1999)” Children look to their parents to understand their own responses and to feel safe. The overall “emotional climate” within a family is a good predictor of a child’s ability to self-manage their feelings. In general, a positive emotional environment is consistently linked to children feeling more emotional safety and acceptance. When the emotional environment is negative, distressing, chaotic, or unpredictable, children tend to be more reactive and emotionally insecure. For more info on regulation and child development check out this article. <For more information on this, check out this article. >  

We know self-regulation isn’t easy and may not come naturally.  We also know this ability can be learned and through practice we can increase our regulation.  We invite you to join us on April 22nd at Coconut Yoga in North Center to learn more about self-regulation and do something good for yourself! <Register for “Put on Your Own Oxygen Mask First” >.


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Bianka Hardin

​Bianka Hardin, Psy.D. is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist and owner of Centered Therapy Chicago, LLC. Dr. Hardin founded CTC in 2014 with the mission to help children, adolescents, and adults improve their… Read More