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Blog by Kaitie Westbrook, a Self-Reg Foundations & Facilitator’s Alumni

In the world of parenting, each day brings new challenges and opportunities for growth, both for our children and ourselves. For me, one of the most profound lessons in parenting has been the concept of co-regulation, especially in moments of stress and tension. Let me introduce you to Mae, my spirited two-year-old daughter, who embodies curiosity and energy in equal measure. Mae has unique sensory specificities and relies on trusted caregivers to co-regulate her stress, energy, and tension levels. As a result, she can become dysregulated rather quickly and expresses this in ways that are (at times) energy-expensive for me, particularly within the prosocial domain.

One morning, Mae resisted getting dressed, leading to tears and frustration. Recognizing chaos, I leaned into co-regulation to bring us back to calm. Sitting together on the floor, I cradled Mae in my arms, holding her close so she could feel the steady rhythm of my heartbeat. This simple act of physical closeness and attunement became a powerful moment for us to find our way back to a place of calm and connection.

As we snuggled on the kitchen floor, Mae was observably calmer—tears were dry, breathing slowed, and her body relaxed into mine. We both exchanged apologies, and I reminded her that all feelings are welcome—even the tricky ones, that my job is to help her through them, and that sometimes this is tricky for parents, too. Then Mae offered me a dose of oxytocin as she squeezed me and said, “I love you, Mommy.”

A moment that could have drained our emotional cups served to fill them. Believing her behaviour was rooted in stress supported me to lean into co-regulation and helped me explore why the refusal to get ready was happening. It allowed me to recognize the stress and help reduce it all while restoring our connection and energy levels. Using Self-Reg®, instead of finding ourselves caught in a stress cycle, allowed me to experience firsthand the transformative power of co-regulation. Reflecting on this morning’s moment, I felt profound gratitude for the gift that Self-Reg® offers parents and their children.

The gateway for many parents into the supportive and life changing world of Self-Reg is through Dr. Stuart Shanker’s best selling book Self-Reg: How to Help Your Child and You Break the Stress Cycle and Successfully Engage with Life and companion on-demand course Breaking the Stress Cycle. Begin your Self-Reg journey today!

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