Regulation: the key to healthy, adaptive functioning

When an infant’s needs are met in a sensitive, responsive, timely and predictable way, the infant never spends too much time in distress because whenever the infant / child is distressed, the parent responds and the distress is ended. This scenario allows the child to spend most of his life in a contented way. When an infant or child too often is separated from his parent, or frightened, injured, hungry or cold, the infant / child experiences too much distress. In other words, the child’s attachment system was frequently activated to try to get the parent to meet his needs and the parent did not. This scenario may have long-term consequences to the child’s regulatory systems; the child may become too easily distressed or not distressed enough. Failure to thrive infants give up on activating their attachment system because that behaviour was ineffective in getting their needs met. Other children may remain easily dysregulated. The role of the parent is to respond to attachment behaviours before the child becomes distressed; or if the child is already easily dysregulated, the parent will need to create an environment that will facilitate low levels of distress. Let’s break this down a bit. Continue reading