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Understanding Parental Co-Regulation / ep25 show notes

Updated: Mar 27, 2020

SELF-REGULATION - The ability to use coping skills, weigh the pros and cons, use thought replacement or deep breathing exercises. The ability to work your way up the polyvagal ladder on your own.

  • Children don’t have it basically. They can build it, but need co-regulation. Self-regulation is built upon co-regulation

Kids have increased sympathetic energy and nothing to do with it. Defensive states increase the heart rate and decrease the ability to think clearly.

  • Desperation, tantrums, anger, running away

  • High emotional volatility

There’s nothing wrong with them, they’re just kids

  • Kids naturally have a weaker social engagement system and vagal brake

  • They need effective and consistent co-regulation


This is really where the bulk of your child’s vagal brake development will come from. We are a social species.

  • We regulate with each other

  • Co-regulation is integral to mental and physical health

  • Safety leads to closeness and touch

Co-regulation begins in infancy

  • Use of prosody, eye contact for bonding/soothing

  • Ex: “motherese” - slow, melodic, exaggerated speech

  • Changing a diaper is a great time

We are constantly engaged in a feedback loop with others


Feedback loop - Back and forth communication, two nervous systems sending cues to each other.

  • Cues of safety = connection/reciprocity

  • Cues of danger = disconnection/rupture

Ruptures - Routine events that lead us away from safety

  • Looking at a cell phone, looking away, internal distractions, talking over the other person

  • Experienced as a minor cue of danger, but could also be a bigger deal for some

  • Ruptures can easily turn into self-criticism or judgment of the other person

  • Experienced as withdrawal or confrontation

  • When ruptures happen, they need to be repaired, like a simple apology, being empathetic, getting on their level, co-regulation through gentle eye contact, giving space if needed

Misattunement - Nervous systems in different states

Might come from ruptures

YOUR HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT - Make the extra effort to show your kids your face and your smiles

Music & Sounds by Benjo Beats -

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