• Brittany Podsobinski

Helping Your Child Calm Down

Anger is a useful emotion when we use it as a "check engine light" that shows us our child has a need that isn't getting met. If you can recognize the feeling before it explodes, and help them take a break or find a way to meet their need (food, rest, cooperation, etc) you can stop the explosion before it happens.

This works for us too!

We can teach them, and help them, to recognize when their anger is rising. One way to do this is with an "anger thermometer". This can be colors - green, yellow, blue. Or with numbers 1 (totally calm and not angry at all) - 5 (about to explode). This way we can help them check in and see where they are and if they're escalating help them to take a break and cool off the thermometer with some calm down strategies.

Here are some of our favorite calming strategies:

Read a book

My 3 year old daughter will ask to read the "feelings" book so she can point out which character she is feeling like. Our current favorite is My Incredible Talking Body- Learning to Be Calm by Rebecca Bowen. But I've also had a lot of success just stopping and reading any book together. It helps move out of the fight/ flight/ freeze stage that is taking over, and back into their thinking brain.

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Practice different types of breathing

Teaching kids to focus on their breath, helps them learn mindfulness and the ability to stay in the present. This is an invaluable skill, that I've been learning right alongside my kids. A fun way to do this is by teaching different types of breathing and making it fun! Alpabreaths: The ABCs of Mindful Breathing by Christopher Willard has a different type of breath and motion for each letter of the alphabet. My favorite is the Elevator Breath where you imagine your breath going all the way to the top floor of a tall building as you breathe in and then imagine it going all the way back down as you breathe out.

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Create a Calm Down Space or Calm Down Bag

This area can include comfy pillows, a stress ball to squeeze, books to read, crayons and paper to color with, a glitter or lava jar to watch, or any other item that will help your child feel calm. The key is to create this together and practice using it when they're calm.

Then in moments when their anger temperature is rising you can ask, "would it be helpful to use your calm down bag right now?" OR sometimes I'll say, "It looks like your anger thermometer is rising, I'm going to put your calm down bag on the table right here if you need it. Let me know if I can help you in any way."

For younger kids it is most helpful to sit with them and co-regulate, since your calm is what's most likely to calm them down. So when they're anger is rising you would go to the calm down corner and just start coloring, or reading a book, or looking at the glitter jar and invite them to join you if they want.

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