Self-Regulation Snap Shot #2: A Focus on Preschool-Aged Children

Publication Date: April 2, 2018
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Adult caregivers such as parents, teachers, coaches, and other mentors play a critical role in shaping and supporting self-regulation development from birth through young adulthood through an interactive process called “co-regulation.”


This snapshot summarizes key concepts about self-regulation development and intervention for preschool-aged children for practitioners and educators interested in promoting self-regulation for this age group. It is based on a series of four reports on Self-Regulation and Toxic Stress prepared for the Administration for Children and Families (ACF). Visit the Toxic Stress and Self-Regulation Reports page for more information.


Self-regulation skills developing in preschool-aged children:

  • Recognizing a broader range of feelings in self and others
  • Identifying solutions to simple problems
  • With support, using strategies like deep breaths and self-talk to calm down
  • Focusing attention for longer periods
  • Persisting on difficult talks for increased lengths of time
  • Perspective-taking and early empathy

Key considerations for promoting self-regulation in preschool-aged children:

  • Deliver self-regulation skills instruction universally in preschool classrooms
  • Train preschool staff in co-regulation skills
  • Identify ways to support school and program staff’s own self-regulation capacity
  • Share self-regulation information, ideas, and classroom approaches with parents/caregivers to support their co-regulation and promote consistency across environments


Rosanbalm, K.D., & Murray, D.W. (2017). Self-Regulation Snapshot #2: A Focus on Preschool-Aged Children. OPRE Report #2018-11, Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, US. Department of Health and Human Services.


The act of managing thoughts and feelings to enable goal-directed actions.
The supportive process between caring adults and children, youth, or young adults that fosters self-regulation development.
Current as of: