“Never in the history of calming down has anyone ever calmed down by being told to calm down.”- Anonymous
The quote above pretty much sums it up. When working with children, whether in a parental or teaching/coaching capacity, how many times have we found ourselves in a situation where we want so badly for the child to calm down that we start frantically telling them (or yelling at them) to calm down? How ironic, huh? It's really funny if you think about it.
Kids are sponges. They feed not only off of our actions, but they are symbiotic on our emotional energy as well. Keep in mind that while panic is contagious, calm is, too.
If we want the children in our lives to remain more calm in stressful situations, we must do two things:
1. Model the calmness we want them to emulate.
2. Teach them the emotional regulation skills and activities where they can learn to calm themselves.
I offer a bunch of ways for kids to learn to calm down. Experiment with your child using the tools and methods below. Make it a fluid process. If something works for a while, keep it in your arsenal. If it stops working, experiment with other ways. Have fun with your child discovering what works. Build his or her emotional literacy by having an open dialogue about it. Let them know that we may not always have control over what happens to us, but we can control our response to what happens. and we can find our favorite ways in which to calm ourselves down afterwards.
Obviously, certain methods and tools are age appropriate. Choose the ones you think best fits your child's age and/or level of maturity. While shoving a technological device in their faces is often our first impulse when trying to calm them down, we can instead help them to build stronger emotional regulation skills by giving them a bigger toolkit which contains a myriad of ways of calming themselves down.
Some Calm Down Methods and Tools for Kids
coloring books or mandalas
Playdough, Silly Putty, or clay
movement/ physical activity
engaging the senses ("Name four things you see, three you hear, two you smell, and one you can feel right now.")
glitter jars (It represents "thoughts and emotions settling")
deep breathing (belly breaths, dragon breaths, power breaths, box breaths, etc.)
journaling (write about you are feeling)
visual calming cards
talk about how the stress feels about in certain parts of the body
teach them about their amygdala (what fear and anger looks like in the brain)
scratch and sniff books
noise cancelling head phones or ear buds
counting breaths, or cars, or butterflies, etc.
sidewalk chalk art
helping around the house or classroom (or gym or field)
take a walk
ask for a break (or a "timeout")
take a bath or shower
recite positive affirmations
sing or hum a favorite song or tune
drink something cold
draw someone special a picture and make them a greeting card
play with a pet
construct a photo album, scrapbook, or a collage
Love on a stuffed animal
Name their worry ("If they can name it, they can tame it.")
construct something with toys
build a blanket fort
play a musical instrument
call or text a friend or loved one
punch a pillow or a punching bag (not the wall!)
read a book
listen to calming music
scream into a pillow
blow up a balloon
put together a puzzle
have a designated "calm corner" to chill out