We often think that kids need to learn how to be calm when they are starting to escalate or having meltdowns. This is definitely the case but it is the hardest place to start. First kids need to be able to experience what calm is so that they know what it feels like and therefore what to return to when they are getting out of this state. Sometimes kids have been in such a stress state (anxious, angry, silly) for so long that they don’t actually know what calm feels like any more. I really like Stuart Shankers work around self-regulation, which he goes into more in his book ‘Calm, alert and learning’. He describes the four steps to self-regulation being something like this:
- Identify a child’s triggers and try to reduce these stressors
- For the child to know what it feels like to be calm
- Learn when feeling calm and starting to escalate/become dysregulated
- Learn how to plan for situations or problem solve when in a stressed situation.
Helen Davidson, Occupational Therapist from ‘Best programs 4 kids’, talks about ‘mental hygiene’. She says that we get told to brush our teeth twice a day for two minutes to keep up with our dental hygiene, so why shouldn’t we teach our kids to put aside similar time for their mental hygiene too?
So what are some ways that you can teach your child to feel calm? Well start at a time when they are feeling the lest stressed as this is when you are likely to have the most success on getting them into a calm state. Perhaps try some of these:
- Listen to a meditation; there are lots of great meditation tracks on you tube or apps that are specifically designed for kids. On our girls camps it is part of the bed time routine that we listen to a meditation just before we go to sleep.
- Go for a run or do some heavy exercise. I once had a yoga teacher tell me that the whole point of yoga is that the 50 minutes of physical exertion is to quite your mind for the 10 minute meditation at the end – and I thought I was there for the exercise! On camp we have a designated crash room and it is amazing how even the most hyped up child can walk calmly out of that space.
- Listen to their favourite music, we know it feels good to listen to your favourite tunes. Music has a way of changing your mood based on the rhythm of the song and the way it makes you feel. If your child is feeling flat on the way home from school, try some uplifting music, if they are kind of hyper then put some more mellow tunes on. As therapists we might suggest some targeted therapy music to create this affect, however you can also get some great affect with what is current and available.
- Use of smell; there are lots of people starting to dapple in the use of essential oils and many families swear by them for their children.
- Create a calming space; some kids like to have a dark space that they can escape to and have all their calming tools. Making a cubby, fort or small tent with soft fabrics, pillows and throw rugs maybe just what they love.
I hope that this gives you some ideas of things that you can try with your child if they are needing some help to find that feeling of calm. As they get more opportunities to feel calm then they are going to be more likely able to generalize this to other situations.
If you need any more ideas or support then please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us!