You’re having wonderful family time together when suddenly you notice the first signs of your young child heading towards a meltdown. The dread sets in as you steel yourself for the drama about to unfold. Your mind starts to race, “What in the world is the problem? Really, right now? How embarrassing. Which random thing am I going to try that might make them calm down?” The little one’s silent tears begin and you gently try to start soothing them by saying, “Oh honey, it’s okay, stop crying…” And the silent tears become very. loud. wails.
All parents have been there, wincing as they think “Well that didn’t help”. Even with the best of intentions, it can be difficult to know what the best response is to your child’s emotions. Then when you’ve finally figured out what to do to help one child manage their feelings and your superparent powers are in full force, your cape snags on the meltdown with your other kiddo as none of those techniques that just worked do anything to help this child.
Don’t hang up the cape, we’re here with reinforcements!
First things first, always acknowledge their feelings.
Sara at Happiness is Here reminds us, "Crying is a healthy and necessary way for kids to express their feelings. By saying ‘stop crying’ we send the message that their feelings are not important, not valid, silly, or annoying."
Next, remind them to use a calm down technique.
Every child is different, therefore, you’ll need to try different calm down techniques with them to see what will work best for them. Again, find what works best for them, not for you. This means having a conversation with them when they aren’t emotional about what they would like to try to do next time they start having a meltdown. Once they have chosen, help them practice acting out their calm down process. This will help them feel more secure in using it when they really have a meltdown and will save you from having to teach them a new skill in the midst of emotions.
Here are 10 ways to help your child calm down
These posters include great ideas for calming down such as reading a book, asking for a hug, and listening to music.
“They are a tool to open discussion with your child about having a calm down plan and they can act as a visual prompt to help you (the adult) as you guide your child in that moment when they are struggling to manage.”
When you're out and about and you can’t get to the poster, this is a great alternative.
“This printable mini book is a great tool for parents and kids. You can print this, fold the one sheet into a mini book, and keep it with you to use in any situation.”
This list of physical activities includes creative ideas such as doing a hand stand, sitting in a rocking chair, pushing against a wall, crinkling tissue paper, and popping bubble wrap.
“Not only does crinkling tissue paper provide a satisfying noise, but also the textural changes in your child’s hand sends sensory feedback to the brain in a pathway away from those associated with stress.”
When children aren't able to move around as much, smaller motions like hand dots, arm squeezes, and arm pretzels can be very soothing.
"These "10 Ways to Calm Down without Anyone Knowing” are perfect to do at school because they are effective, don’t require equipment, and can be done discretely, even while sitting at their desk. Plus, your child won’t have to worry about feeling “different” because no one will have to know that their subtle actions are actually helping them to calm down."
This technique is one you probably naturally use every day when you get frustrated. It’s not always a natural response for little ones, so walking them through it is essential.
“To keep our breathing slow, we’ll try to count to four as we breathe in and to four as we breathe out. Let’s practice and do five slow breaths together; I’ll count as we go. Try to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. As you breathe out, purse your lips like you’re blowing bubbles. Put one hand on your stomach to remind yourself to focus on filling up your belly when you breathe in. In – 2 – 3 – 4. Out – 2 – 3 – 4…”
Singing a simple worship song is a great way to remind your child that God can give them peace! Additionally, there are many short children’s songs that remind them how to calm down. We love this adorable video of a toddler singing with his mom and it helps him feel “all better”!
Grab some glitter, legos, alphabet tiles, or food color and fill a jar that will help distract and soothe your child.
“As the name describes they are great for calming down kids who are in timeout, bored & fidgety in the car, anxious or struggling with sensory overload. My favorite part is how easy they are to make and how many different variations are out there!”
Make a kit of items like a bottle of bubbles, small puzzle, scratch art doodle pad, gum, or blanket that your kiddo can choose from to help them calm down.
Reading scripture that talks about peace or self-control is a great way to remind them that God is on their side. Additionally, many books and videos have been made specifically for children to use to help regulate their frustrations.
“Reading books or watching videos introduce concepts to children and help them understand ways to relieve overwhelming emotions.”
"One quick hack to get people, including kids, to calm down is to get them thinking. This moves brain functioning from the emotional brain to the logical brain."
“I put my hands on his shoulders so that we’re face to face. I whisper to him ‘Hey buddy, do you want to play a little game really quick? It will be fun.’ His tear-filled blue eyes look up at me and he nods. ‘Okay, it’s super simple. Can you point out 5 things that are blue?’”
Good luck out there superparent! We’d love to hear which of these techniques work for your child, and even which ones were a flop! We pray these ideas help bring peace to your home and know God will strengthen you.