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Calming Strategies for Young Children

Last month I wrote about meltdowns; and I promised to share some ideas on how to help your TOT calm down this month; so here we are…

Of course, when your TOT is mid-meltdown, you’re feeling the heat, your brain is running overtime – “should I intervene, how?” “should I let it play out” “how do I make him feel better” “is he too sensitive” “am I spoiling him” is this normal?”.

I’ve got news for you – it’s totally normal; and usually it doesn’t mean a spoiled or over sensitive child. He’s a preschooler, and trying to manage his ever – intensifying emotions amidst a rising awareness of how the world around him works.

So how do you help??

Let us talk about what is unhelpful first;

  1. Timeouts, for the lo-down on why, you can read my April 2017 article here  http://aristotots.ca/child-development/tweak-your-timeout/
  2. Yelling, your pre-schooler has a pretty decent pair of lungs on him by now too; you’ll end up in a needless battle of wills if you go down this road. Spoiler alert – he will win; you’ll both be exhausted.
  3. Taking away privileges, think about it this way – you’ve had a nightmare day at the office; perhaps you and a co-worker disagreed on something and you behaved less than graciously; you get home to tell hubby and he says “well no TV for you tonight”. It’s Wednesday and you usually sit down and watch an episode of your favourite show to unwind, but now that’s gone too. Perfect end to the perfect day – not so! Now you’re feeling even worse than when you walked through the door.

By telling your TOT he can’t take that trip to the park or ride his bicycle after dinner because he melted down, you are sending the message that it’s not OK to express his feelings.

The message you really want to get across is:

It is OK to express your feelings; however, in this expression it is NOT OK to hurt oneself, others or the environment. (This is something Montessori teachers have been advocating in their classrooms for many years.)

The thing is, every parenting guide book, advice column or social media group will tell you about 100 conflicting things; you’ll end up so torn about which way to go; and chances are by the time you’ve trialed 3-4 of these things, both you and your TOT will be exhausted.

So, the big question is, how do you help a child learn what is and is not an acceptable way to express feelings:

  1. Know how to approach your child; this really is the key. No parenting guide book can teach you this, as each child is unique. You, as a parent, are best placed to know how, by watching your child and learning how to read his/her signals.  What is universal though, is showing empathy; get down to their eye level and acknowledge what they are feeling, validate it for them, give them language to describe their emotions – “you are feeling angry, its ok to feel angry, when I feel angry I do [      give them an example ] to help me feel better”.
  2. Coping with stress is a life skill, it is our responsibility as parents and caregivers to give children the tools to learn how to cope. Try to remember this when your TOT is in melt down mode, it’s a game changer in terms of your reaction!
  3. Provide children with different means to express their feelings and feel better.

 

Here are 10 helpful strategies for calming children & helping them to feel better:

 

  1. Create a safe space where your TOT can go; away from sensory stimulation; to sit and calm down, a den works great, with a beanbag or soft chair inside, a few stuffies and favourite books.
  2. Offer cuddles, or a snuggle on mommy’s lap. But don’t force it, some children don’t like to be held when they are feeling overwhelmed with emotion.
  3. Sometimes offering a distraction doesn’t work; take a book and sit down, start reading it aloud yourself; ignoring (as much as possible) your TOTs meltdown.  You might find he / she decides to come and join in to listen to the story.
  4. Channel all that negative energy into a dance party. Play some of your TOTs favourite music or simply stick on the radio and bust a move.
  5. For some children, a sensory activity can help, using a calm down jar with a list of a few creative activities inside for your TOT to choose from is a perfect way to distract and divert his or her attention. (Playing with stress balls, modeling clay, building with lego, finger painting, raking sand in a ‘Zen’ box, and listening to a rain stick have all worked well for me in the past).
  6. Run a bath or a shower, drop in some essential oils which you know your TOT responds well to; add some toys if required. Heck get in too and make it a team bath! You’ll feel a lot calmer too 😉
  7. For an older child getting them to help someone else can often make them feel better about themselves.
  8. Consider skipping the screen time – it can overstimulate growing brains; and not in a positive way; so down the devices for 48 hours, pack a picnic and go for a hike or cycle ride; take a trip to the park, visit the library.
  9. Check in on the diet –If your household is anything like mine in May, we have 6 birthdays – can you imagine the overexcitement from all the celebrations; the sugar overload from cake; and then the crash! Look back over the last week or so and reflect on whether your TOT is getting food from all the major food groups; think all the colours of the rainbow, and limit the sugar.
  10. Always talk it out – but not in the moment, wait ‘til your TOT is feeling better. We use dinner time as a place to exchange details about our day including addressing any issues which may have arisen. We also use it as an opportunity to talk about 3 positive things from our day; and 1 thing which was not so good – another vital tool in your TOT’s coping with feelings toolkit.

 

I hope you enjoyed reading this, and find the content useful. I’d love to hear your feedback so please post a comment on our Facebook page!

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