Co-regulation: Adolescents

Written by Kristin Tallackson, M.A., LPC Intern (TX), LPC (OH)


Adolescence is a time when the body and brain undergo major changes. This brings about both trials and benefits for self-regulation. Brain systems responsible for emotions and sought rewards are more developed than their counterpart, cognitive control system. The cognitive control is responsible for good decision making and future planning. During this time, teens may lean towards decisions that offer a short-term reward rather than a long term benefit. This is a period of time where teens heavily allow their emotions to impact their decisions. Many caregivers may think this is a time to back down from co-regulation; however, support during this developmental period is crucial.


Caregivers notice the pull for autonomy in adolescence. Our instinct is to pull away and give space; however, a supportive, warm, and accepting relationship with a caregiver is most important. Teens need caregivers who are able to provide a listening, empathetic ear where they can express strong emotions, work through conflict, and be taught coping skills for a myriad of stressful situations. Though adolescence need opportunity for autonomous decision making and action, they also need caregivers to monitor actions, protecting them from dangerous situations, and be supportive of responsible choices (Murray et., al, 2015).

Here are practical ways caregivers can facilitate self-regulatory skills for adolescence taken directly from Murray et., al, 2015:

·  Provide a warm, responsive relationship

·  Provide support and empathy in times of

intense emotion

·  Model, monitor, and coach more sophisticated self-regulation skills across different contexts

·  Monitor and limit opportunities for risk-taking behavior

·  Provide opportunities to make decisions and self-monitor behavior in less risky situations

·  Give time and space to calm down in times of conflict

·  Monitor and prompt use of organizational and planning skills for successful task completion

·  Continue clear rules, boundaries, and consequences to incentivize good choices