Does your child have temper tantrums, feel anxious, and cannot be calmed down? As a parent, do you feel you've tried everything you could to calm your child down? As a psychotherapist in Hoboken, NJ I specialize in helping children and teens express themselves in appropriate ways. I like to teach children self soothing actions they can do on their own at home.
Whether your child is seeing a therapist or not, below are 10 ways you can help your child calm down at home.
"The Chill Challenge"
- This is something I like to do in the first few minutes of session with a child who has trouble sitting still or who feels anxious. You can also try this at home with your child to prevent angry outbursts. A good time to do this with your child could be after school right when they get home.
- This is played as a game between you, your child, and anyone else around. Set a timer and challenge each other to do nothing for the entire time. I recommend starting with 1 or 2 minutes and work up to 3 or maybe even 5 minutes. As the parent, during this time of "doing nothing", you should be modeling deep breathing and relaxing techniques. Your child will notice these relaxing techniques and hopefully model them as well.
- This can refocus a child and help with concentration. Your child will also see how to relax and slow things down. It is important to practice this daily- it only takes a few minutes! Practicing this while your child is NOT having a temper tantrum or outburst is a good time to practice. So when your child does feel angry, anxious, or upset then they will know what works for them to relax.
- P.S. Make sure your phone is off during this time and you are also fully doing nothing for the allotted minutes. This is a great way for not only kids, but also parents to slow things down and get out of the hectic pace of daily life.
- Some children will have a hard time reaching a total point of relaxation. If this is the case for your child then you want to have them do something active and fun that will slow down their anxious thoughts.
- Have your child sit on a big yoga ball- instead of a usual chair, couch, or bed. Balancing on a yoga ball can help center someone and have them focus on that balance. Your child can sit on a yoga ball while doing homework or watching television. This is a great grounding technique.
- You can also go to a playground and have your child play on the swings. By swinging back and forth, your child's brain is actually slowing down and your child should feel more relaxed.
Deep Breathing with Squishies
- The best and quickest way to relax is to practice deep breathing. There are multiple ways to practice this. One way is to use a squishie or any type of stress ball.
- Have your child squeeze the squishie and breathe in while doing so. Then, as the squishie slowly comes back into its full shape, have your child slowly breathe out. And repeat.
- This is a fun way to keep your child engaged, but you are also teaching deep breathing. It is important to teach this while your child is already calm and to practice it daily. So that when your child does start having a tantrum or gets angry then you can give your child the squishie ball and they will know what to do from there.
Deep Breathing with a pinwheel:
- Have your child take a deep breathe in, and then release a deep breathe out onto the pinwheel. Challenge your child to make the pinwheel move faster the next breathe they take. And repeat!
Mindfulness with food:
- This is a fun activity for kids since they can play with their food! Mindfulness is a good skill for any person to have. It can help you live more in the moment and slow things down.
- When your child is eating food, ask them to describe what they see (describe the food by color, shape, etc), have them chew slowly and describe everything they taste. You can even ask them to feel the food if you really want to have fun with it. Anything to do with the 5 senses is helpful in practicing mindfulness.
Mindfulness while going outside:
- Bring your child outside and sit or stand somewhere together. Play a game by asking your child what they experience in that moment with their 5 senses. Ask 5 things they see, 4 things they hear, 3 things they feel, 2 things they smell, and 1 thing they taste. This is a great grounding technique for anyone with anxiety or stress or practice.
Mindfulness with Adult Coloring Books:
- These are great for children as well since it can help focus and relax your child. You can practice mindfulness in multiple ways.
- They have a variety of themes to match your child's interests.
Mindfulness with Music:
- If your child is into music then this is a great exercise to practice. Turn on any song and have your child follow one specific instrument within the song. This is a great way to practice mindfulness since it takes all of the child's focus to follow one specific instrument within a song.
Dance is Out!
- You can use a metronome to create a beat. There is a metronome App you can download as well that lets you control how fast or slow it goes. Have you child do different movements, actions, and/or activities to the beat. This keeps your child focused and relaxed while having fun!
Yoga for Kids
- Yoga is a great relaxation activity that children can practice. It helps with mindfulness as well as deep breathing. It combines all the best things into one. I recommend looking for a yoga class for children in your area. You can also get yoga for kids books and workbooks to practice at home. Another at-home option would be watching YouTube videos and having your child practice yoga that way.
Mindfulness can help your child be more aware of how they are feeling in the moment. The goal here would be for your child to be able to express how they are feeling such as, "I'm feeling angry. I'm going to go in my room and relax" instead of throwing a tantrum. Remember it takes A LOT of practice to get to this moment. And you may need extra help from a professional.
About The Author:
Courtney Glashow, LCSW
is a licensed psychotherapist practicing in Hoboken, New Jersey. She specializes in children and adolescent issues, and young adult counseling.