More on co-regulation

I had a few people contact me about my last post on co-regulation, so I’m responding to some of their questions in this post.

In case you didn’t see that post, I talked about co-regulation, and how it is a child’s repeated experiences with an adult who feels safe and has the “Social Engagement” branch of their nervous system switched on, that builds the child’s capacity to self-regulate.

💖 As parents, we do not need to be “Socially Engaged” all the time in order to help our children develop the capacity for self-regulation.

An adult with a well-regulated nervous system will move in and out of “Safe and Social” and “Fight or Flight” states fluidly, as they encounter stress or perceived danger in the environment, and then return to a felt sense of safety.

Although they will likely spend more time in a “Socially Engaged” state.

Co-regulation 3 slides (3)
Image courtesy of Freepik

💖 If we have been with our children in either a reactive “Fight or Flight” or unavailable “Shutdown” state, then there is plenty of scope to repair the stress or fear that may have caused our children through subsequent interactions.

Having brought ourselves back into “Safe and Social” mode, we can move into warm connection with our child, allowing our nervous system to offer them a felt sense of safety.

💖 And if you recognize that you’ve been in a “not safe” state more often than you would like to have been, I’m sending you lots of empathy and compassion. Nobody wants to feel that way, and it’s not your fault.

The development of your nervous system, your ability to self-regulate, was influenced by the state of your parents’ nervous system, just as your children’s will be influenced by yours. And we’re all doing the best we can.

💖 If you’re worried about the impact that the state of your own nervous system might have had on your kids, I want to reassure you that kids (and adults) can grow and heal, because of “neuroplasticity” (the ability of the neurons to change).

The Ventral Vagus nerve which is responsible for “Social Engagement” can be “toned” at any point in life, given sufficient experience with another person (or even animal) in “Safe and Social” mode, and using various other strategies.


I wonder how it is for you reading all this? I think it is such powerful information, so important to be aware of, and yet I understand that it may trigger painful feelings in us, perhaps feelings of concern, sadness, regret, even guilt or shame.

If you do not feel that your nervous system is as well-regulated as you’d like it to be, I understand and I resonate!

I believe that the first step in changing this is increasing our awareness of our own autonomic states, and appreciating how they can impact on our child, all while holding ourselves with the utmost compassion.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s