I am always looking for new calming strategies to teach children. One of my favorites is the Take 5 Breathing. This technique is from the Managing Big Emotions series for kids at childhood101.com. A youtube video can be found here.
I find this calming strategy beneficial because, in addition to deep breathing, it also lets children focus their eyes and attention on their hands. I have found that letting them do so increases their ability to cope with all of those overwhelming emotions. Tip: it is VERY common for kids to try to move too quickly through their fingers, which makes this method less effective. I have to give plenty of prompts to slow down and they will need lots of practice with this one.
Accepting consequences seems to be fairly difficult for most children I work with. Let’s face it, no one LIKES consequences, whether it’s a time-out, having to do an extra chore, or losing money. One fun way to practice accepting consequences is by playing the game Chutes and Ladders. Even better? I have a shorter version of the game in my office that shows pictures of children doing something they (probably) shouldn’t at the top, then shows a consequence at the bottom.
When I play this game with children, I pre-teach that they will practice the steps to accepting consequences each time they land on a chute. They then practice saying “ok” and using a calming strategy to stay calm. I provide praise and corrective feedback, if necessary. I also discuss with children the benefits of staying calm when receiving a consequence.
Children feel the same emotions that adults do, but can have a difficult time labeling them or how these emotions affect their bodies. Knowing how their bodies react to feelings can help children recognize how they’re feeling faster, and increase their ability to use a calming strategies. Their body’s response can help be a signal that they need to do something to calm down in order to stay in control of their bodies.
One of the strategies I use to help kiddos increase their awareness of body signals is by having them draw an outline of their body on a piece of paper. I tell them not to color it in or draw a face just yet. Then we have a therapeutic discussion about certain body signals that they think they experience when they feel angry. As we discuss, I have them draw the body signal on their paper.
Some common ones include:
- Clenched fist
- Red/hot cheecks
- Sweaty face
- Sweaty/clammy hands
- Fast heartbeat
- Upset stomach/butterflies in stomach
- Clenched jaw
- Tightened/flexed muscles