Self-regulation has become an important topic of interest in regard to children’s learning and development with an emerging understanding of its contribution to children becoming positive learners as well as their long term mental health. Though not a new idea, its relationship to other elements critical to children’s learning has become clearer. It has been described as a revolution in educational thinking and practice and can be seen in each of the elements outlined in Australia’s Learning Frameworks as well as the important outcomes these identify for children. A child relies on having positive and supported social experiences from birth to acquire the ability to regulate their own arousal state and emotions. Three important findings from research: • Children acquire the ability to self-regulate by first being regulated;
• Adults around children need be regulated themselves; and
• Regulating a child involves modulating the intensity of stimuli in order to engage and sustain the child’s attention.
It is important then that children are guided and supported by a caregiver being ‘in touch’ with their needs and who themselves is able to regulate their own emotions.
Self-regulation is learning about your own feelings and emotions, understanding how and why they happen, recognising them (and those of others), and developing effective ways of managing them.
When children and young people learn to self-manage their emotions, they feel more confident, capable and in control. They have stronger relationships, are more able to pay attention, learn new things and can cope better with the normal stresses and disappointments of daily life.In their early years, children are just beginning to learn about emotions and feelings, and how to manage them.
From time to time, most young children display behaviours such as aggression, emotional outbursts and inattention. Gradually, children learn what situations are likely to upset them and how they can handle emotions better when these situations arise. This learning continues into adolescence.
Individuals are unique
Children vary in the way they perceive, respond and interact with the world around them.
They vary in how they switch between moods (with some taking longer and needing more help than others to recover from being upset), how they respond to new situations (some dive straight in while others tend to withdraw and observe from a distance), and how long they can concentrate for.
Children’s ‘feel good’ hormones (serotonin) are higher when they experience life in their own way and in their own time. Over-scheduled children can feel rushed from one thing to another, causing stress and tiredness. High levels of stress hormones (cortisol) lessen the child’s ability to concentrate, manage conflict, problem-solve and try new things.
Children who’ve experienced higher levels of stress in their preschool and primary years show more aggression and anxiety and aren’t as socially competent than those who’ve experienced less stress. The good news is it’s never too late for children to learn about developing their coping skills and building resilience.
Throughout our curriculum we focus on emotional intelligence and self-regulation, using visuals, supportive language and literacy and strategic guidance. The educators continuously seek professional development to increase their understanding and capacity to support children develop emotional and self-regulation skills.