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The Prosocial Domain: supporting self-regulation across the five domains

Shanker Self-Reg® helps us consider self-regulation and stress across five interrelated domains: biological, emotion, cognitive, social and prosocial. In this blog we are going to explore the Prosocial Domain.

Stress in the Prosocial Domain is often tied to a child’s difficulty coping with other people’s stress. Signs of Prosocial Stress, can include difficulties sharing, telling the truth, understanding right and wrong, and more.

Let’s explore The Prosocial Domain further:

  • The crux of Self-Reg is that we are born with a brain that expects social engagement.
  • Antisocial behaviour in a child is not the norm.
  • Clearly there are biological mechanisms that, in the wrong circumstances, lead to antisocial behaviour.
  • Equally clearly, there are biological mechanisms that, in the right circumstances, lead to prosocial behaviour.
  • Instead of asking how you compel a child to behave prosocially, through a lens of self-regulation we ask: what sets a child on an antisocial path?
  • The answer lies in stress overload. Fight-or-flight shuts down digestion, cellular repair, immune system, and PFC systems that subserve mind-reading and communication.
  • Stress overload shuts down the very systems that enable us to experience “cognitive empathy”: not just being affected by, but aware of what someone else feels.
  • When social engagement shuts down, ancient systems run the show. Systems that predate the Social Brain relying on aggression or escape to deal with threat.
  • Some children are born susceptible to limbic arousal, or had experiences that kindled the limbic system. If the limbic system is hyperaroused, impulses intensify while social and self-awareness decline, The child can’t share, sympathize, or communicate. Someone else’s arousal is so stressful that it triggers fight-or-flight or freeze.
  • What is critical in such situations is how we respond to the child’s anxiety, which can manifest in acts of aggression.
  • Chastising a child for his lack of empathy, shouting when a child needs to be soothed, escalating when the child needs to down-regulate, can make things worse. Instead we have to do Self-Reg, on ourselves as well as with the child.
  • Early learning centres and schools provide us with the perfect opportunity, not just to explain, but also to model this behaviour for parents.

Examples of Stressors in the Prosocial Domain:

Stressors in the Prosocial Domain, an illustration by Kristin Wiens. Graphic includes stressors such as empathy, sympathy, world events, other's strong emotions, waiting your turn, social media, giving a gift, injustice, sharing, a sick friend and a sad friend.

Stressors in the Prosocial Domain, an illustration by Kristin Wiens

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Previous Blog in Series: The Self-Reg Framework: The Social Domain

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