Healing Through Co-Regulation

Over the past few years, topics like self-regulation, trauma, attachment have been widely discussed in schools, counseling centers, and families. Moreover, people are starting to acknowledge the pain, trauma, anxiety, and other personal struggles of students.

We live in strange times, and it has been affecting young people. Some have been struggling to meet deadlines, focus on class, and have a healthy sense of self-worth. These behaviors and attitudes are manifestations of bigger issues—sometimes bigger than the students are aware of.

A Revolution in Schools

Education systems around the world are starting to wake up to the fact that students’ stress levels are at an all-time high. Schools are taking initiatives to provide mental health services for those who need them. Parents and teachers often talk about child development and suggest strategies to help students cope with stress: meditation, exercise, journaling, and art.

Schools are starting to do away with the lecture-type teaching sessions, are working toward a relationship-based learning environment. Teachers develop activities that can engage students and meet their needs. Do not be mistaken; this is not spoon-feeding! Academic standards remain the same, but different methodologies are explored.

Co-Regulation in the School

Self-regulation teaches us to monitor our behaviors, attitudes, emotions, and thoughts. Those who can self-regulate are seen to have good relationships with others and a good overall disposition. The “self” in self-regulation implies that the work should be done by the person who is struggling. In the context of schools, we assume that struggling students need to do the work by themselves. However, members of the school community, specifically the teachers and school counselors, can help facilitate this process.

How about co-regulation instead of self-regulation?

Co-regulation is the act of actively taking part in the healing of a child or student. In the process of teaching students some skills to self-regulate, the teacher or the school counselor is also doing the same. Here are some examples:

1.      Holding the hand of a distressed child to help them calm down

2.      Doing breathing exercises with a student who is having a panic attack.

When doing this with a child, it is not only the child that calms down—the teacher or counselor that does the exercise with them can calm down as well.

Facing Our Traumas

Teachers often talk about struggling students as if they are the only ones facing struggles. “They” are struggling, “they” are having a difficult time, “they” need help. When teachers and counselors talk about students in this way, there is a risk of “othering.”

Just because teachers are adults and are considered to be functioning members of society doesn’t mean that they don’t have their struggles. As adults, teachers and school counselors should actively do healing work by themselves or with professionals. In this way, they are better equipped and are in a better disposition to help students. Heal your trauma so that you do not pass it on to others.

Healing Takes Time and the Help of Others

Teachers have an important role in co-regulation. Children spend so much time at school, so it’s not wrong to assume that the environment the school creates and the teacher’s help can facilitate the student’s healing. 

Trauma and healing work are usually attributed to counselors, therapists. However, teachers have an impact on the healing of a child. Teachers and school counselors have to acknowledge their role in the child’s life within the school. Therefore, they need to constantly work on their well-being so that they can create a safe and healing environment for the students.