5 Reasons for Teachers to Co-Regulate Emotions

5 Reasons for Teachers to Co-Regulate Emotions (and How to Start from Day One)

We cannot expect children who are already stressed and activated to be able to regulate on their own. They need our help. When you help a child regulate, rather than expecting them to regulate on their own, it is called co-regulation. Adults underestimate how much children and adolescents require adult support and guidance to manage their feelings when they are worried, angry, hurt or scared. When adults provide the correct strategies for regulating emotion, the results can mean the world to a child’s success.

  • Improved attitudes towards self, school, and others
  • Enhanced positive pro-social behavior
  • Reduced misbehavior and aggression
  • Reduced emotional distress
  • Improved academic performance

How can I help my students co-regulate emotions?

Be with a child when they are feeling out of control emotionally and/or behaviorally. Your demeanor is important. The less words you use at this time, the better. Simply let the child know you understand they are feeling overwhelmed and you are there to help them until they feel more in control of their emotions and behavior.

Start by teaching breathwork and movement activities to children and then practice them on a regular basis. Encourage them to practice the activities on their own or with the help of their parent/caregiver. The goal is for them to easily engage in breathing or movement changes when they need help regulating their emotions or behaviors. The more they practice, the easier it will become for them to call upon these resources during uncomfortable or overwhelming situations.

The calmer you remain, the more the child will begin to calm down.  Model how to regulate by taking a deep breath, walking slowly, or distracting the child with play or drawing. Practice this often. It takes many co-regulation experiences for some children to learn how to do so on their own.



Start teaching breathwork and movement activities to children and then practice them on a regular basis. The goal is for them to easily engage in breathing or movement changes when they need help regulating their emotions or behaviors. The more they practice, the easier it will become for them to call upon these resources during uncomfortable or overwhelming situations. Learn more and download our free co-regulation activity below.

More related resources from Starr Commonwealth

The Most Important Factor in Your School Day is YOU

Lessons are aligned, supplies are ready and schedules are set, but of all the preparations you make each day, the most important factor in your school environment is YOU. Your attitude, energy level and ability to connect, notice and give feedback to students is what matters most, especially for children who have experienced trauma.

Mirror neurons are believed to be one of the major neuroscience discoveries of recent years. Mirror neurons are brain cells that “fire” both when a person is in action and when a person observes someone else engaged in the same action. What does this mean for us as educators? It means that students will mirror our actions, attitudes and feelings.

The frame of mind and body you bring to school will set the tone for the day. Checking your own brain/body state often will also help you avoid getting stuck in a conflict cycle that leads to damaged relationships and disruption of learning. Modeling positive emotions and self-regulation will create a climate where everyone feels safe and ready to learn.

Mirror neurons are the brain cells that make emotions contagious. Checking your own mind/body state often will help those around you remain calm and promote a feeling of safety that allows learning to take place.

For more ideas on how mirror neurons affect our interactions with kids and how to help our students, check out our Mind Body Skills workbook and the Mind Body Skills online course.