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Paving the Road to Self-Regulation (for children with hyper-sensitivity/anxiety)

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Self-regulation of hyper-sensitivity/anxiety occurs along a continuum.  Recognition of the steps along that continuum is important so that you can help your child grow and learn strategies to self-calm.  Interestingly, the continuum remains consistent throughout the lifespan.  For example, let’s consider an apprehensive child who fears an amusement park roller-coaster.  Initially Mommy sits next to and hugs the child on the ride.  Next, the child goes on the ride alone with a “lucky rabbit’s foot.”  For the third ride, the child derives confidence from a “pep talk” and rides independently.  Finally, the child talks himself through the scary parts as he takes a spin on the roller-coaster all alone and with glee.  Now let’s consider the similar process that unfolds with an apprehensive adult who fears flying in an airplane.  Initially, the adult may require hugs to soothe his panic prior to flying.  On the next flight he may do well emotionally as long as he holds a religious medallion and listens to relaxing music.  By his third flight he remains apprehensive but accepts the data that flying is the safest form of travel, and by his fourth flight he talks himself through the flight without much difficulty.  Here are the steps that we travel up and down as we try to self-regulate and manage our arousal/anxiety:

  • Physical Contact (Hugs, pats on the back, hand-holding)
  • Use of “Transition” Objects (a teddy bear, a favorite blanket, a “lucky charm”)
  • Music (a lullaby, a favorite song)
  • Verbal Encouragement/Reassurance (an encouraging word, an insightful interpretation)
  • Self-Talk (talking yourself through a challenging situation)

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