Connection through co-regulation is such a crucial aspect of parenting, especially when it comes to teens with ADHD. By learning through creating coping strategies to co-regulate we connect and we are able to communicate calmly, openly and honestly.
Through effective communication, you can help them better understand their strengths as well as their weaknesses and provide them with the tools they need to manage the challenges they face as well as make day to day living a whole lot easier.
It’s important for both – parents and teens to communicate with each other about the overwhelm or stress they face when dealing with ADHD as well as everyday challenges.
The key to this is recognizing the signals that our nervous system sends us and learning effective strategies for managing our stress responses. By acknowledging these struggles and working together, parents and teens can develop coping mechanisms that work for them individually and also for the whole family.
By utilising effective communication strategies, parents can help make the process of parenting a teen with ADHD a little easier. Let’s dive in together,
and explore strategies that can help us lead happier, healthier lives! Let’s start by understanding what we mean by Connection and Co-Regulation.
What is Co-Regulation
Polyvagal theory, developed by Dr. Stephen Porges, suggests that co-regulation is a key aspect of human social behaviour and communication. Co-regulation refers to the process by which two individuals interact in a way that allows them to synchronise their physiological states, such as heart rate and breathing patterns, leading to feelings of safety and trust between them.
Dr. Porges’ research has found that co-regulation is facilitated by the vagus nerve, which plays a critical role in regulating our autonomic nervous system and influencing our responses to stress and social engagement. Through co-regulation, we are able to establish a sense of connection with others and create a safe environment for mutual support and growth.
In essence, co-regulation is an important part of how humans relate to one another, helping us build relationships based on empathy, trust, and collaboration.
Why Is Co-Regulation Important?
Co-regulation is a crucial component of healthy communication between parents and teenagers. When parents and teenagers engage in co-regulating behaviours, they are able to establish a safe and supportive connection for open communication.
One way that co-regulation facilitates healthy communication is by promoting active listening. When parents actively listen to their teenager’s perspective and validate their emotions, it helps the teenager feel heard and understood. This can lead to deeper conversations and more effective problem-solving.
Co-regulation also helps parents model healthy emotional regulation for their teenagers. By using self-soothing techniques such as deep breathing or taking a break when feeling overwhelmed, parents demonstrate how to regulate emotions effectively. This sets an example for their teenagers to follow, helping them develop healthy habits for managing their own emotions.
In addition, co-regulation can help reduce conflict between parents and teenagers. When both parties are able to regulate their emotions effectively, it reduces the likelihood of arguments, blowouts or misunderstandings. Instead, they are able to approach situations with a calmer mindset, leading to more productive conversations.
Finally, co-regulation promotes trust between parents and teenagers. When teenagers feel that they can communicate openly with their parents without fear of judgement or punishment, it creates a stronger bond between parent and child. This can lead to greater overall well-being for both parties.
Summarising – co-regulation is essential for facilitating healthy communication between parents and teenagers. It promotes active listening, models healthy emotional regulation strategies, reduces conflict, and builds trust between parent and child.
Co-regulation can reduce conflict between parents and teenagers and lead to trust
Here are three ways with examples that co-regulation can reduce conflict between parents and teenagers and lead to increased trust:
- Promotes Active Listening, here’s an example of active listening:
- Imagine a teenager comes home from school and tells their parents that they had a bad day. Instead of dismissing their concerns or trying to solve the problem right away and “fix” it the parent engages in active listening by asking open-ended questions and reflecting back what the teenager is saying.
- The parent might say something like, “I’m sorry to hear that you had a bad day. Can you tell me more about what happened?” They might then reflect back what the teenager says by saying something like, “It sounds like you were really frustrated with your teacher today.”
- By actively listening in this way, the parent is demonstrating that they are fully present and interested in understanding their teenager’s perspective. This can help the teenager feel heard and validated, leading to greater trust and deeper conversations over time.
- Models Healthy Emotional Regulation, here’s an example of modelling healthy emotional regulation versus not:
- Let’s say a family is driving to a vacation destination and hits unexpected traffic. The parent who models healthy emotional regulation might take a few deep breaths, acknowledge the frustration they are feeling, and then calmly explain to their family that they will need to find an alternate route or wait out the traffic.
- On the other hand, a parent who does not model healthy emotional regulation might become visibly angry or upset, start honking the horn or making negative comments about other drivers. This can create tension and anxiety within the family, leading to potential conflicts and decreased trust.
- By modelling healthy emotional regulation through taking deep breaths, acknowledging emotions, and responding in a calm manner when faced with stressors, parents can teach their teenagers how to regulate their own emotions effectively. This can reduce conflicts that may arise from impulsive or emotionally charged reactions while also promoting greater trust between parent and child.
- Establishes a Safe Environment for Communication, here’s an example of co-regulation establishing a safe environment for communication versus not:
- Imagine a teenager is feeling anxious about an upcoming test. The parent who practises co-regulation might sit down with their teenager and ask how they are feeling. They might then offer some calming techniques like taking deep breaths or going for a walk together.
- The parent who does not practise co-regulation might dismiss the teenager’s feelings or tell them to just “get over it.” This can create tension and anxiety within the family, leading to potential conflicts and decreased trust.
- By practising co-regulation through acknowledging and validating their teenager’s emotions, parents can establish a safe environment for communication. This can help the teenager feel heard and supported, leading to greater trust and deeper conversations over time.
Co-regulation and Mindfulness
Co-regulation in polyvagal theory is closely linked to the concept of mindfulness. As previously mentioned, co-regulation always helps to synchronise physiological states, leading to feelings of safety and trust between individuals, particularly important in relationships with caregivers. We are able to offer this when we are in a “safe and social” state. Often when we talk about mindfulness – most of us think of “meditation” as being mindfulness. Through a polyvagal-informed lens mindfulness is considered to happen when you are in a “safe and social” state. To reach this state and increase awareness there are a number of “mindfulness practices” we can use.
When a parent is able to regulate their own nervous system through practices like raising awareness, visualisations and meditation, they are better equipped to co-regulate with their child. This means that they can help their teen manage their emotions and respond in a healthy way to stressors.
Through mindfulness practices, parents can become more aware of their own emotional states and develop effective coping mechanisms for managing stress. When parents are regulated, they are better able to provide a sense of safety and security for their child.
This sense of safety is essential for healthy development, as it allows children to explore and learn about the world around them without fear or anxiety. By modelling healthy coping strategies through mindfulness practices, parents can help create an environment that promotes well-being for both themselves and their teens.
By parents prioritising their own regulation through mindfulness practices, you can create a more peaceful home environment where everyone can thrive.
Mindfulness is a powerful psychological process that can be developed with practice over time. It involves intentionally focusing your attention on the present moment without analysing or reacting in a habitual, automatic way.
By noticing whatever thoughts, feelings, or sensations arise in the moment without trying to change them, you can develop skills to respond to emotional situations in a calmer and more grounded manner. To do this, you need an open and non-judgmental mind that accepts the present moment for what it is.
This can be done through mindfully completing tracking states, worksheets and meditations. One of the goals of mindfulness meditation is to become aware and non-reactive in the present moment. By observing your thoughts, feelings, and sensations without judgement, you can remain alert and fully present.
Deep breathing is also an essential tool for remaining mindful. When you acknowledge your thoughts and feelings while using deep breathing techniques, you allow them to pass by rather than suppressing them or getting stuck in them.
Remember that mindfulness is not about suppressing your thoughts or emotions but instead observing them with curiosity and allowing them to move on. With practice, mindfulness practices can help you stay calm and centred even in challenging situations. Being mindful – is a state of being .. which we can all achieve. So take a deep breath, stay present, and let’s cultivate mindfulness together!