Emotional Regulation

Emotions can run very high in situations relating to CFS, since there is a lot of trauma and fear involved when families are separated. Advocates can support through emotional regulation and helping to balance the emotions in the room.

Emotionally regulate workers

If a social worker is avoiding or detaching from the conversation, advocates can validate the social worker to bring them back into engaging as a group on the task at hand.

Emotionally regulate parents

If parents are stressed, advocates can make sure there is a chance to take a break in the conversation to give the parent space to calm down and get some support before going back into the difficult situation.

Take breaks

When there are 2 advocates present in the buddy system, 1 advocate can take a break with the parent and offer some support – while the other advocate can stay with the social worker to connect with them and encourage them to open up to collaboration with the parent and group as a team. 

Emotionally regulate each other

2 advocates can also emotionally regulate each other, since it can be a triggering situation for everyone involved. Having a buddy and a system of support helps people to feel safer and gives opportunities to process the challenging emotions that come up.

Fearless emotional regulation supports

  • opportunities to de-stress and take a break
  • via phone, text, video call, email/messenger – during Covid-19

Buddy System

  • It provides emotional and mental stability for families when the conversation with cfs may be difficult for the parent to handle by standing up for the parent when the agency is being unreasonable, keeping the conversation focused on the positive, and suggesting small breaks when the situation seems to affect the emotion of the parent too much.

Emotional Balance/Regulation

  • help parents look/be “compliant”
  • circumstantial
    • changes constantly based on mood of room & people
  • notice the emotions in the room – knowing what is needed
    • if parent is angry, advocate can de-escalate & support
    • if social worker is angry, also have to de-escalate. Make them happy because we need them to be on our side.
    • OR, when needed: push social worker, demand cooperation & action, when parent isn’t able to do that (if they need to look compliant)
    • if a social worker cowers in the corner – advocate validates the social worker
    • if parent is stressed – advocate gives them space to calm down/ support
  • Know the things to do to be the “emotional release valve”
  • We release these emotions/keep the balance, so that parents can become more comfortable to start using their voice
  • “good cop – bad cop”
  • need more “keep your cool” or more getting angry
  • make breaks for parent (1 advocate goes to support parent) & 1 advocate stays to butter up social worker
  • feed off the workers
  • emotional regulation is for the parent, & for the CFS worker, & for helpers & advocates
  • 2 advocates can emotionally regulate each other (triggering situations for everyone)

Body Language

  • Go in happy & relaxed, open to listen (not closed off, arms crossed)
  • Look them in the eye, calm
  • Watch their body language & stance & the words they use
  • Goal of Buddy System: buddy becomes emotional support in background & parent is advocating & speaking for themselves

Advocacy Tips

  • listen to the social worker
  • as a helper to parents, encourage them to speak up for themselves
  • speak the language of the worker / be proffessional
  • don’t give in to anger
  • be self-aware of your body language and tone of voice and facial expressions
  • know yourself / take self-care
  • know your own triggers and emotions
  • Talking about our emotions

Mouth Piece

  • being the voice for parents when emotions are overwhelming or when the worker needs to hear it from someone else

Pre-Meetings (The real talk)

  • Before social worker meetings, parent & advocate go through agency’s concerns
    • This is emotional and hard to do 
    • Getting the most emotional stuff out ahead of time before being in mtg with social worker


  • Shorthand helps when you are emotional, stressed


  • Parts of Wellbeing
    • Mental – meditation, exercise, breathing
    • Emotional – handling stress, self-acceptance, healing
    • Body – healthy eating, exercise
    • Spirit – connecting with land, gratitude, sharing with family
  • Mental health plans with medicine wheel
    • to make 16 steps we take when feeling overwhelmed/triggered
    • mental, emotional, spiritual, body health

Listening to parent’s story

  • safe storytelling: make a safe environment if parents want to share
  • NEVER SAY: “I know what you’re going through”
    • you only know what you went through
  • parents can get out emotions on you (sounding board)
    • anger, sadness, etc that is not allowed toward workers
  • parents forced to stay emotionless in front of workers, so they need to express those feelings somewhere – it’s not about you personally
  • don’t take notes
  • DO ask “What do you need?”
  • just listen, don’t jump to fixing
  • put control into parent’s hands
  • respect parent’s communication & spoken needs
  • “Thank you for sharing, do you want to set up a next meeting to talk about planning?”


  • offer smudge after if parents want (bring smudge kit along)
  • share who gifted this ceremony to you (especially for non-Indigenous people)
  • some Indigenous people will rightly feel uncomfortable with non-Indigenous people offering ceremony to them
  • social workers have “professional boundaries” – can’t share their personal life
  • we CAN share our experiences (NOT that we know the parent’s experience, but that we have our own experiences with the system)
  • share your story in a short piece because the meeting is not about you

Respect Boundaries

  • go at the pace of the parent
  • work with them where they’re at
  • ask “What do you need from me?”
  • build trust overtime, if they don’t want to give the whole backstory right away

Emotion Regulation Scenario

  • ANCR worker says that parent is too emotional
  • Say: “I know we need to do this right now but I need someone here while I do this”
  • Say: “I’m calling someone to sit in on the meeting” (if no one can show up right then, at least have them on speaker phone)
  • remember it’s okay to be mad & totally reasonable, but try to do as much emotional regulation as possible
    • say, “I need to take a 5 minute break to have a smoke, catch my breath”

Emotion Regulation for Parental Capacity Assessments

  • They are looking for: emotional intelligence & emotional disturbances
  • “primary caregivers’ capacity to promote growth and development, physically and emotionally, for kids
  • “Parenting Capacity Assessment is based on the premise that for optimal cognitive, emotional and behavioral development, a nurturing relationship with emotionally competent primary caregivers.”
  • PCA based on determinations of emotional adjustment,
  • Reciprocal emotional attachments (between parents & kids) are part of the PCA

Reciprocal Emotional Attachment

  • emotional bond between parent and child
  • “Things that may help” – if you can say or prove the following:
  1. “I know there is a difference between ages of development”
  2. “I know what to do in different situations/emotions of children”
  3. “My expectations match my child’s ability/behaviour”

Emotion Regulation Resources

  • Youthspace.ca offers emotional support and crisis intervention to youth in Canada under 30yrs. Our highly-trained volunteers are online every night (6 PM to 12 AM PST) to connect with users in Chat – instant message or text message. Our site also offers a moderated Forum, a Resource database and a link to E-Counselling.
  • Talking about feelings at Fearless Sharing Circles
  • Check-ins with Fearless community, helpers, advocates

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