Helping your child calm down by themselves
My 3 year old is rather high strung. With a mind that is constantly going and a sensitive heart, he is full of energy and easily riled up. He is easily stimulated by large crowds, tense conversations and noise. When I vacuum, flush the toilet, use the blender, or other things that are loud, if he’s not doing okay, he will get very upset. And even when he is okay, often likes to plug his ears. Since I have realized how in tune he is to all of the stimuli around him and how hard it is for him to shut it out, I’ve set out to find ways to help him learn to cope with it. It’s not as valuable for me to calm him down as it is for me to help him learn to calm down. With the tools I can teach him now, he will be able to cope with life when I’m not with him and as he grows older, in healthy ways that will be truly helpful to him.
One way to help calm down is to tune everything out and just focus. Focus on mom, focus on what I’m saying, focus on my face, focus on my mouth moving. Even if you can’t make sense of my words or have to shut off your mind, just use all of your mind to focus. It might be helpful to remove your child from the situation that is agitating them at first. Tools for focusing;
Tools for Parents
Remove them from the situation
It is often helpful to remove yourself and your child from the noise and tension surrounding them to bring them to a calm and quiet place to calm down. With less distractions you will have better results.
Breathe deeply yourself
Your child will be able to tell if you are stressed out, emotional, or tense. Take some deep cleansing breaths yourself in through your nose and exhale.
Talk in a low calming voice
Use a tone that is low and calming to speak to your child. It will make them slow down and listen to actually hear you and will have a soothing affect on them. They will more easily be able to calm down and focus when you are calm and focused yourself.
Tools for Children
Show your child how to breath deeply and slowly by sucking air in through their nose until their lungs are full then slowly releasing it. Have them follow your example and repeat several times.
Mentally relax each part of your body
As your child is breathing deeply, speaking in a low and calm voice, coach them to relax their fingers, their hands, their wrists, their arms, and so on. Relaxing their fingers is a good place to start because you can easily show your child what relaxed fingers looks like. You can also go from head to toe. Another option would be to tense their whole body (squeeze fists, grit teeth, clench eyes, etc.) and then breathe in deeply, hold for a second and let it all out while relaxing the body.
For older children, meditation can be a very helpful focusing tool. Consciously clearing your mind and choosing to ponder on nothing, a Bible verse, a positive quote, positive words or positive self talk.
Yoga is great for body and mind. Toning and relaxing, yoga strengthens muscles and helps them to be more flexible and supple to prevent injuries, it also helps balance and motor skills as well as to clear your mind. There are lots of fun poses for children to do with you or by themselves.
On some occasions, your child might have too much pent up energy that they don’t know how to relieve. Or maybe they are lacking in physical touch. Positive physical touch such as hugs and kisses make children feel loved and secure. Hugging has been shown to boost oxytocin and serotonin levels, lower blood pressure, promote relaxation and build relationships. BLDG/25 has a great post on hugging here. Some ways to help them to relieve physical energy;
My son loves to do this. When he has a lot of energy and is starting to get destructive or too wild I will take him outside and say, “look at that tree, show mom how fast you can run over to that tree!” and he’ll get a big grin on his face and run his little heart out. Often times he will go above and beyond what I ask of him.
Ask to give them a hug
Always ask your child if they want you to give them physical affection if you are the one initiating it. This will reinforce their boundaries and teach them that they have control over their bodies and what is done to them. Ask “Do you want a hug?” or “Can I give you a hug?”. Avoid asking for physical touch, rather present it as a gift you are giving them.
Give them a back rub or scratch
My son loves back scratches! When they are in need of physical touch, sometimes a calming back rub or a back scratch can make them feel like a different person.
Use essential oils topically or in a diffuser
You have to be careful how you use oils, not every oil is safe for children so be sure that you have done your research and have a quality oil. Some oils that can be very calming for children are chamomile, lavender and patchouli. If you aren’t sure about using them on your child’s skin you can diffuse them or let them inhale the aroma from the bottle. Make sure you always properly dilute essential oils in a carrier oil such as almond, coconut, or olive oil before using them on your children’s skin.
Use sensory objects
Calm down bottles, slime, play dough, stress balls, fidget spinners, there are so many tools out there to help your child calm down. Some kids use a pacifier or a lovey. Encourage your child to use these tools to help relieve stress and relax.
Getting in touch with their emotions
It is helpful to know what is causing the behavior, what the feelings are and to get to the root and name the feelings, you can help your child to process the agitation better if they can understand where it’s coming from and how to tackle it. Encouraging positive behavior specifically can give a child clear guidelines for what is expected of them in future.
Get on their level
Get down level with your child, look them in the eyes. Your child will be much more likely to respond when you are at their level and making eye contact. This commands your child’s attention and makes you approachable and establishes relationship and connection with your child.
Acknowledge their feelings
Validating your child is a powerful tool for calming temper tantrums. When you have said no and your child starts whining, get on their level, take a deep breath and in a calm voice tell them “You are sad! Mama said no and that makes you feel bad because you wanted to help make the soup! It’s not safe for you to be by the stove, but you can help me to make the sandwiches.” Helping to redirect them and give them things that they can do will be helpful to curb the disappointment and knowing that you understand why they are upset will help ease the frustration.
Help him to put an emotion to his feelings
Use phrases like “You are using a loud voice, I can tell you are feeling angry.” and “I can see that you are feeling sad about turning off the movie.” Let them know that it is okay to have feelings about things and that emotions are healthy but we need to control how we respond to a situation even if we are upset. “It is okay to be sad, but we must not throw a temper fit.” “It is okay to feel angry, but we can not shout, instead we can talk about why we feel upset.”
Praise good behaviors and qualities that you see them exhibiting
This is so important and really has been a game changer with my son. He needs to know not just what he shouldn’t do, but also the character that I want to see in him! Help to give them solutions, set them up for success. When you see them exhibiting a good behavior let them know and praise it. When my son deals well with the baby attacking him, I will say “Good job! You moved him away gently instead of hurting him. That was a good thing to do!” Praise or thank them, name the behavior or character that you noticed, the specific action and why it was the right thing to do.
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How do you help your child calm down?