Ten strategies to teach children how to choose calm.
1. Pay attention to your body’s signals about feelings
2. Take slow deep breaths
3. Use calming self-talk, think positive thoughts, or create happy mind pictures
4. Find a quiet space to calm down
5. Read, draw, or build
6. Walk, run, or play
7. Hug a stuffed animal or squeeze a “stress” ball
8. Talk about and name feelings with someone you trust
9. Practice being still and relaxed
10. Spend time in nature
In our fast paced, activity packed, stressful, and often scary world, it is a true gift indeed to find calm for ourselves, let alone our children. As a parent, I was deeply saddened the morning my seven year old son asked me at the bus stop what a suicide bomber was. In spite of my best efforts to delay his exposure to tragedy in our world, his cartoons had been interrupted by breaking news with images of airplanes crashing into the World Trade Center. Tragedy, trauma, and fear hasn’t slowed down since then. We are vulnerable and our children are vulnerable but one thing we can do to protect them is to equip them to successfully manage the increased emotional demands by teaching them about calming down and put structures and routines in our homes and schools that support emotional regulation.
The good news is that there is a blossoming number of researchers tackling the causes of increased anxiety and mental health concerns in children and exploring methods to help, and for them, I am exceedingly grateful. As for me, I speak from the front lines of a public school as an elementary school counselor, working alongside teachers and parents, trying to tap into the best that has been discovered to gift our little ones with the tools they need to manage their emotions in healthy ways as they grow and develop.