Summer is an exciting time for kids, but all of that sun and playtime can be overwhelming and hard to manage when they get overtired. Seven hours of camp? Ouch! We want our children to enjoy their summer, but ultimately, that means working on effective self-regulation. Coping with conflicting feelings of exhaustion while wanting to keep the fun going leads to dysregulated emotions that are hard for any young kid to control. If you have a child with autism, you know all too well that emotional dysregulation is even more difficult for him or her to cope with, and your role becomes much more involved.
Mutual regulation (sometimes called co-regulation) requires that you literally help your child regulate his or her emotions. When children can’t self-regulate, they need you to soothe them in order to calm down. At this stage, your presence will probably prove to be the most critical piece to achieving peace. When you know that your child cannot access healthy coping strategies on their own, you’ll want to strategize when would be the best time to start working with your child on self-regulation techniques. While you might coach him or her in the moment, you may find that lessons are heard more clearly when the moment passes and everything is less heated.
Self-regulation takes us years (who are we kidding, decades) to figure out. As adults, most of us have realized what makes us happy, what makes us upset, and most importantly, how to get from one emotional state to the other when times are tough. We might be able to effectively calm ourselves down with yoga, meditation, or exercise. When your kid is overtired and acting out, try to stay patient and remember that young children have not yet mastered these self-regulation techniques… so here’s a good summer-themed visualization to try!
Beach Breathing: Have your child imagine that he or she is standing on a warm beach. See if she can move her hands to model a wave drawing in on the sand (inhale), and then going back out to the sea (exhale). Repeat 3x.
When possible, apply this technique outside so that you can feel the sun on your face and fresh air in your lungs. Wishing you a sunny (and emotionally regulated) summer!