Self-regulation is ones ability to take responsibility for their emotions, channeling that energy into positive choices. Simply put, self-regulation is the psychological science term for self-control. The ability to self-regulate is a core strength, essential for healthy emotional development.
As infants and young children we depend on others to regulate our needs, such as eating, drinking, and feeling safe. Within a loving relationship (one that also includes space) children learn how to regulate their needs. When parents or caregivers respond to their child, they are modeling healthy tools for emotional regulation. As they develop into teenagers and adults those tools for maintaining balanced emotions, or homeostasis, carry on into all aspects of life.
Still, whatever the cause, many children (and adults) are in need of stronger internal support systems. Meditation is a key component in learning how to regulate ones emotions and respond with grace to our world.
Listening to the Body
Meditation is about listening. When we are experiencing a powerful emotion there are a number of things happening. Most notably, there’s the outside event that spurred the emotion, the thoughts and stories involved, and the visceral feeling in the body. During meditation two pieces of the picture are dropped: the thoughts as well as the event itself (because it being in the past now makes it a story of its own).
All that is left is the feeling. This is where self-regulation takes place. The drama behind the emotion that makes children kick and scream for an animal cracker suddenly disappears. What’s beneath that feeling now comes into attention.
Teaching kids to just be with feelings is not an easy challenge. Asking a screaming five year old to wait for a moment and sit with his breath is no simple act. That’s why, just like adults, children need practice.
Body and emotional awareness is a large piece of kids yoga. Children are asked to notice their feelings when we read books, play games, or play with yoga postures. The simply act of noticing goes a long way. More and more, meditation practice integrates into daily life and kids become more capable of noticing and communicating what is truly going on inside.
As kids mature they continually use and transform their self-regulating tools. Self-regulation and meditation make it easier for kids to take the time to think before acting, responding to the world with grace.
Are you teaching your kids about meditation? Leave a comment and let us know how it’s going. 🙂