Protect your regulated space.

-by Timothy (Tim) Grivois, Ed.D.

On June 11, 2021, I’m co-presenting on emotional regulation and co-regulation strategies for teachers and school leaders with Dawn Baumgartner and KOI Education. If you’re in Arizona, you can register for the conference here. Dawn is a Licensed, Clinical Social Worker who works with school age children, families, and educators to inspire them to believe open hearts will open minds. Our presentation begins with Dawn sharing what research tells us about how the brain responds to emotional triggers. Based on what we know about the brain, Dawn will also share effective strategies for regulating, relating, and reconnecting with children and youth when unexpected behaviors happen in our schools and classrooms. 

Next, I’m going to present this video:

The twins wishing their grandparents a Happy Thanksgiving.

It’s cute! My twins were not quite three in when I took this video. They were excited to play in their box, and excited to send their Thanksgiving wishes to their grandparents. What you don’t see is what happens next.

Right after I texted the video to my dad, my oldest kid who is nine years old saw the twins in her box! Outraged at the toddlers, she grabbed the box and dumped her siblings on the ground. I had no idea why I now had three crying children right next to me, but I could feel two different versions of me competing to take charge of the situation:

Two versions of Tim

The first version of me was shocked that my oldest had ruined a beautiful moment. Was she really that possessive of a box that I was going to recycle anyway? Whatever she wanted the box for, it surely wasn’t worth hurting her siblings over. This behavior was unacceptable. This version of me was having an emotional response.

The second version of me was shocked that my oldest was feeling upset. Normally, my oldest is a caring, loving older sibling who enjoys playing with the twins. I must be missing something. This version of me was reasoning through the facts and looking for a solution.

I can only tell this story because the second version of me won. (If you come to the workshop, Dawn would say that there were actually three versions of me, and it’s really about which part of the brain was in charge…) I scooped up the twins, snuggled them until they felt better, and was happy to see they were more surprised to be dumped out of a box than actually hurt. My oldest took her box to a different part of the yard and just sat next to it. When the twins were ready to leave my lap, I walked over to my oldest and sat next to her. I waited a moment or two, and then she explained that I had taken the box from a place where she saves her fort-building materials. We processed what happened for a while, and thought through other ways that both of us could handle the situation more effectively. The whole process took a while, but I’m proud that the best, most emotionally regulated self showed up for all of my children. This is how it happened:

Eight Dimensions of Wellness

  • I had a good night’s sleep and I had exercised earlier in the morning (Physical Wellness)
  • I was able to notice and name what I was feeling and what I noticed my kids feeling (Emotional Wellness)
  • My connections to friends and family, though strained by the pandemic, were solid (Social Wellness)
  • I’d been creating some new trainings for Positive Behavior Intervention and Support, and enjoying the new direction I was heading (Intellectual Wellness)
  • I was feeling good about my work and my finances at the time (Vocational, and Financial Wellness)
  • I had done a really neat meditation that morning all about purpose (Spiritual Wellness)
  • The backyard was clean and organized the way I liked it, and I had just finished repairing the rainwater harvesting barrels (Environmental Wellness)

Imagine a tired, out of shape Tim who lacked the vocabulary to name emotions. Also, he’s feeling isolated, ill equipped at work, and stressed about money. Finally, his meditation app didn’t work that day, and the backyard was a mess. If any one of those had been true, there is little chance that I would have responded to the toddler dumping as skillfully.

Helping children and youth regulate emotions begins with establishing, protecting, and expanding our own regulated space. Knowing strategies to respond to unexpected behavior is important, as is being emotionally and cognitively available to put those strategies in place when you notice disregulated behavior in the children and youth you serve.

A resource

One resource that I use to support caring professionals to maintain their regulated space is the Eight Dimensions of Wellness Deck. You can either buy a set for $8.99 or you can download a set for free. Both versions have the same content. The printed set available for purchase has:

  • has beautiful rounded corners,
  • durable card stock,
  • was printed at a union shop,
  • and is already printed for you. 

And, if you printed your own set right now and got started using them, I’d be delighted! The main thing to know is that the Eight Dimensions of Wellness are highly interdependent. For most people, small actions in any of the dimensions seems to spark big changes across all eight.

Eight Dimensions of Wellness—Do it now.

While there are many ways to engage with as many of your Eight Dimensions of Wellness as you’d like, one common way to being is to pick one and get started.

Take out your deck and read the cards. Pick a dimension of wellness that is calling to you. Get a sticky note and write down something you feel ready to do to address one of those dimensions. Put the sticky note on the card and imagine how you’ll feel once you get started.

Remember, helping children and youth regulate emotions begins with establishing, protecting, and expanding our own regulated space. This kind of self-care is more than just treating ourselves to something or eating more vegetables. Rather, it’s about being intentional about our own health and wellness so that we can be available to serve others at our best.

Arizona educators, sign up for the conference. It’s going to be supportive and useful. Download a flyer here.

Everyone is invited to order or download a set of the Eight Dimensions of Wellness cards.

One thought on “Protect your regulated space.

  1. The instinct of some would have been to punish your oldest because she hurt or was mean to her younger siblings, and then give the box back to the younger siblings to play with. What you did was to get to the root of behavior, help all those who were hurt, and honored everyone’s feelings. That is the key to resolving conflict and understanding people. Great reminder this morning.

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