By Kate Jackson, LCSW, Guidance Clinic Supervisor
In ChildSavers’ Mental Health Services, we provide psychotherapy to children and families with a wide range of symptoms such as worries, hyperactivity, mood swings, and tantrums. One of the things parents ask us for the most is advice on how to help their children learn to calm down. We help children learn tools to regulate their emotions and energy levels. Also, we incorporate parents into this work and give them tools to help their children calm down during the course of a day.
Children are more successful in school and get along better with others if they can calm down when feeling anxious, angry or tired. This is an essential part of child development and a skill that children need, but it is easier for some to learn than it is for others. Even for children who have difficulty calming down, with practice and help, they can learn over time. Some tools to help them may involve breathing or relaxation techniques. We may look for engaging games and activities to help children learn to take long, slow breaths. For example, blowing bubbles can help children regulate their breath and have fun in the process.
Children will learn to regulate and calm themselves more quickly if their parent or caregiver is involved in the process. It is helpful to identify which activities work best for each child and then make a routine of practicing them together on a daily basis. Over time, this can not only help them build an overall sense of safety and stability, but with ongoing repetition and practice, calming down will become easier. These activities can also be fun, easy and quick things to do together to help children and parents feel more connected, in the midst of their busy lives.
There are additional benefits for parents practicing deep breathing with their children as well. It may help them manage the stress of being a parent. Further, when parents can calm themselves during a stressful tantrum situation, their child is likely to calm down more quickly. A child may also feel less anxious in a stressful situation, if they see their parent feeling calm. The Empowering Parents’ article, “Calm Parenting: How to Get Control When Your Child is Making You Angry”, by Debbie Pincus, MS LMHC, is an addition resource for parents.
Practicing activities to calm down on a regular basis will make it easier for children and parents to do so when stressful moments arise.