Monday, December 28, 2009

Getting to Co-Regulation

Once your child is feeling comfortable, and is no longer resisting the time you spend just being together, you are ready to take the next step. 

The first step in building co-regulation is to establish a simple pattern.  I will list some common starting points here.  When choosing an initial pattern to work with, keep in mind your child's individual strengths and challenges.  Do not choose a pattern that will be too challenging for your child.  For example, if your child has motor planning issues, don't try to toss a ball back and forth.  You may have to try several patterns prior to finding one or two that work well.  This is okay - you are learning what works along with your child. 

Some common starting patterns include:

Back and Forth - Tug of War:   With this pattern, you and your child will engage in a tug-of-war, where you take turns pulling back and forth.  You might use a pool noodle, or a jump rope, or even just hold hands and rock back and forth.  The most important thing is for your child to realize that s/he is taking an action that is in response to an action you've taken, so start out very slowly.  I would generally start this by holding firmly, but gently, to the child's hands, then slowly pulling back, so I am rocking back a bit, and the child is rocking forward (both of you in a seated position).  Pause, and wait for the child to pull you back.  This is critical - the child must understand that he is taking an action in response to your action.  This is why you must resist the impulse to push back yourself - the child must do it.  Once you feel the child pulling you back, pause, and pull back again.  Continue this pattern until it is comfortable and well-established. Once the pattern is established, add a small variation, like pulling a little to the side, instead of straight back.  If your child is comfortable with the variation, continue.  If not, go back to the original pattern.

Back and Forth - Rolling a Ball: This version of back and forth works best with a child who will remain with you without physical contact.  It is exactly what it sounds like - you will take turns rolling a ball back and forth.  Resist the urge to "tell" your child to roll the ball, instead show him what to do.  If necessary, start with a version of push and pull as described above, but with the ball in your hands, and gradually move towards rolling the ball.  Once the initial pattern is established, add variations, like changing speed, or bouncing the ball.  Again, if your child becomes upset at the variations, return to the original pattern.

Giver-Receiver:  A simple way to establish a giver-receiver pattern is to place two laundry baskets nearby.  The one closest to you will be filled with towels or small, soft items that are not distracting to your child.  Slowly, hand one item to your child, and show him that you want him to place it in the other basket.  Continue the pattern until it is well-established.  Once the pattern is established, add variations, like adjusting the speed, or tossing the items to your child. 

These are a few examples of ways we introduce co-regulation.  Remember, it's never about the activity - the activity is nothing but a framework in which to introduce the concept of co-regulation to your child.  It's not about tossing a ball, or putting towels in a basket - it's about your child learning that s/he can respond to your actions in a fluid manner, without needed to resort to withdrawing or controlling the interaction.  We keep these interactions simple and repetitive so your child can see the underlying pattern - the part that is the "same", before we start to add differences (variations).  These patterns are the backbone of co-regulation, so never rush them. 

1 comment:

Live2hope said...

Great explanation.

an RDI Mom in Vietnam