“There is only now.”

Early Childhood, Self-Regulation

As part of my Self-Reg Facilitator’s Program course with The MEHRIT Centre, we are always tasked with responding to a series of discussion questions. For last week’s module, we were asked to reflect and respond to one of two quotes. I decided to share the quote and my short reflection on it.

Reading this quote by Susan Hopkins brings to mind what Dr. Stuart Shanker said about the womb not being a stress-free environment, but rather, a stress-reduced environment. Self-regulation is how we manage stress. Even before we are born into this world full of different stressors, we have already encountered and been exposed to a certain degree of stress (low to high) from and through our mother, while in the womb. This can be due to her adjusting to the changes that come with pregnancy (hormonal, emotional, mood, daily routines), possible existing health challenges, environmental stressors, just to list a few. The fetal brain and spinal cord (central nervous system) is the first to develop during fetal development at about week 3 until full term (see: Sensitive Periods of a Baby’s Development). Our nervous system is what’s responsible for our stress response. So even before we are born, that system has already been actively developing and engaged in the womb, and if there are no complications, should be fully developed by the time we are born. Babies are ready for self-regulation from the time their central nervous system is beginning to develop. A fetus in the womb depends on its mother’s ability to self-regulate (manage the stress and changes that come with life and pregnancy) before they are born. As Stuart says in Reframed: Self-Reg for a Just Society, they are “transitioning from one type of womb to another, an ‘external womb'”. Since babies can’t yet self-regulate on their own, once they enter the “external womb” (the world), they depend on the adults in their lives to help them to do so.

An article I came across titled, When Does the Fetus’s Brain Begin to Work? by Zero to Three states: 

“In the last trimester, fetuses are capable of simple forms of learning, like habituating (decreasing their startle response) to a repeated auditory stimulus, such as a loud clap just outside the mother’s abdomen. Late-term fetuses also seem to learn about the sensory qualities of the womb, since several studies have shown that newborn babies respond to familiar odors (such as their own amniotic fluid) and sounds (such as a maternal heartbeat or their own mother’s voice). In spite of these rather sophisticated abilities, babies enter the world with a still-primitive cerebral cortex, and it is the gradual maturation of this complex part of the brain that explains much of their emotional and cognitive maturation in the first few years of life.”

Children are always ready for self-regulation. There is only and always now.


This website is provided only for informational purposes and not intended to be used to replace professional advice, treatment or professional care. Always speak to your physician, healthcare provider or pediatrician if you have concerns about your own health or the health of a child.

2 thoughts on ““There is only now.”

  1. Hi Samantha,

    Thank you for sharing the impact a mother has on their unborn child’s ability to self-regulate and how self-regulation needs to be taught at the beginning stages of childhood. Being a teacher it is always my goal to ensure that each of my students are practicing self-regulating and being mindful as I find it helps them to be the best student they can be and in turn, the best person they can be outside of the school environment.

    Some ways I practice self-regulation and mindfulness with my young students are:
    -Cosmic Kids Yoga https://www.youtube.com/user/CosmicKidsYoga
    -Community Circle: at the beginning of each school day, each student shares how they are feeling and why

    The more that students are exposed to opportunities to practice self-regulation and mindfulness, they more focused and attentive they will be. What other ways can teachers and parents practice self-regulation in the classroom and at home?

    1. Hi Kaitlin,

      Thank you for sharing these practices. Cosmic Kids Yoga is really wonderful. The Community Circle is also a great way to create a safe environment for students that fosters their social and emotional skills.

      There are a quite a few different resources out there such as:
      – Self-Reg (http://self-reg.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Infosheets_Self-Reg_for_Elementary_Teachers.pdf)
      – CASEL (https://casel.org/)
      – The Zones of Regulation (https://www.zonesofregulation.com/index.html)
      – The Teacher Toolkit (http://www.theteachertoolkit.com/index.php/tool/category/C10)

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