You: “Help! How do I get my kid to wear an eyepatch?”
Me: “Co-Regulation and Self-Regulation To the Rescue!”
About a month ago, one of my clients asked me for advice on how to deal with her 6-year-old daughter who resisted wearing her eyepatch.
Her parents had already searched online and tried everything they could find, but nothing seemed to work. I was tempted to do the same search and hope to stumble upon a solution they missed, but I decided not to go down that route. I knew I had to think outside the box or simply admit that I had no clue. So, I told the mom I’d think about it and let her know if I had any suggestions.
Since I teach mindfulness to kids and families, I thought about approaching the issue from that angle. The idea of co-regulation came to mind.
But before we dive into co-regulation, let’s talk about self-regulation:
Self-regulation is all about managing our reactions to strong emotions like anger, frustration, anxiety, and excitement. It means not letting these emotions take control and being able to snap out of them on our own. Remember, all emotions are valid—we’re not here to deny that. However, kids under 5 years old can’t regulate by themselves, so that’s where co-regulation comes into play. It’s also worth mentioning that many kids older than 5, and even adults (like me for most of my adult life), struggle with self-regulation.
Co-regulation is when kids under 5 learn to regulate their emotions by relying on the regulation of their parents, caregivers, and peers. If the grown-ups around them aren’t good at managing their own emotions, then the kids will have a tough time learning self-regulation.
Even if we’ve mastered self-regulation, we still co-regulate with the people we spend time with and our environment. That’s why we’d rather hang out with calm friends in nature than with angry people in bustling cities.
I figured that even before asking her daughter to wear the eyepatch, the mom was probably feeling anxious just thinking about it. From a co-regulation perspective, the child picks up on the parent’s anxiety and becomes agitated too, resulting in resistance to the eyepatch. I mean, let’s be real, who wouldn’t fuss a bit about wearing something uncomfortable? I know my partner wouldn’t be thrilled about it 😉 So, I shared this idea with the mom and suggested that she tries regulating herself first before bringing up the eyepatch topic. Mindfulness can really help with self-regulation, by the way!
She gave it a try, here is her response below. Now, her response doesn’t explicitly say that this approach worked, but I believe it’s worth a try if you’re feeling desperate too. Here’s what she said,
As for the eyepatch, I have taken your suggestion and been trying to be more confident and less nervous. I am not sure if it's because we don't do it as rigid schedule as we used to do and do it more often but now when we put it on it's a lot simpler and smoother. She's been very strong and less angry about it.
Of course, life is full of surprises, and many things can influence a situation. Sometimes, it’s not just one thing that does the trick but a combination of factors. But I’m pretty sure (although I might be biased!) that the mom working on her own self-regulation played a part. So, why not give it a go?
Another thing to try would be to start wearing the eyepatch for a very small amount of time, one minute at a time, so it’s short and sweet. This is easier to build a new routine, like James Clear mentions in his book Atomic Habits which I greatly recommend to build any new good habits! And then increase in increment of 30 seconds and see how it goes.
Last but not least, I couldn’t resist my curiosity, so here are other techniques you’ve probably already come across online:
- Try different eyepatch styles, colors, and patterns,
- Make the eyepatch fun by coloring or adding stickers with your child,
- Allow screen time while wearing the eyepatch,
- Engage your child in activities they love, like painting, crafting, or playing together,
- Cherish the time you spend with your child, as they enjoy playing with you,
- Join in on the fun by wearing an eyepatch too 😉
- Create a routine, so your child knows what to expect,
- Play pirate games!
- Offer a reward of their choice,
- Set a timer and gradually increase the eyepatch-wearing duration.
- Have someone else, like a babysitter or grandma, help your child with the eyepatch. Sometimes kids are more cooperative with someone other than their parents,
Now, I’m curious! What have you tried so far? What worked? Please share!
Let me know if you gave any self-regulation techniques a try before asking your child to wear the eyepatch and how it went. I’d love to hear your story!