Self-regulation of our emotions is something we learn to do from a young age and we find different ways of managing our emotions as we go through life. Some methods work better than others and some don’t work at all. At times, children can have difficulty self-regulating their emotions and it can take longer for them to find the best way for them to cope in various situations. Trying to help children find ways to control their emotions can be a challenge because they may not always respond to ways that you or I do and it is not always simple and straightforward. We need to experiment with our kids to find different methods that work for them. If they are angry, frustrated or upset, telling them to calm down is the last thing they want to hear.
Some different techniques that you could try include:
Basic Deep Breathing This technique can calm down a child who is hysterical or sobbing uncontrollably as a start and reassure them you are here to help and listen but you need to stop crying. Breathe deeply and calm down.
Make a Worry Box For those children that find it difficult to ‘let go’ of things that are worrying them and have difficulty going off to sleep, make a simple worry box. It is a practical way of allowing them to write down their worry and putting it into the box. Reinforce that the ‘worry’ has been placed in the box and the lid is on the ‘worry’. The so-called ‘worry’, can be discussed in the morning, which provides some comfort for your child that their worry is acknowledged. It is also a visual for some children and a physical way of dealing with their worries. The use of relaxation or sleep music can also be used to help them drift off to sleep.
Mindfulness This strategy can be very beneficial for all of us. I know I have used the Smiling Minds program in my classroom and it is fantastic for calming students down, particularly after lunch. It allows them to calm down and gather their thoughts before dealing with any issues that may have occurred in the yard. From experience, I can honestly say that the number of issues dealt with after lunch declined because all of a sudden those minor incidents that seemed major, suddenly were not. If a student still felt after the mindfulness that they needed to discuss lunchtime issues, they were certainly encouraged to do so. When they did, they were a lot calmer, not as emotional and far more rational. I would certainly recommend accessing this program and trying many of the different meditations available.
Exercise or Physical Activity We have all experienced a build-up of adrenaline in our body. We can’t concentrate, sit still or function unless that adrenaline has been released. It is the same for children. The best way for adrenaline to be released is through exercise. Whether it be allowing the child to run laps of the oval for five minutes or letting them scream at the top of their lungs, it is an important release. I hear adults say, “I could scream right now” but we can self-regulate and know there is a time and a place. In a school setting, sometimes it is important to let students release that adrenaline so they can function successfully. Exercise is always a great way to manage stress, anxiety, anger and many other emotions we experience. When we exercise, our bodies release endorphins, which make us feel good. A trampoline is one of the best ways to assist children with anxiety. It is always there in the backyard and they can jump until they can jump no more or simply lie down and look at the sky and let their thoughts wander.
Positive Self-Talk This technique is talking ourselves into something and psyching ourselves up. Remind your child they are good at certain things, they are a good person and they can overcome their fears. Having a go is a positive step regardless of the outcome.
Have a Hobby or Interest As adults, we know the saying ‘all work and no play is no good for anyone.’ This is the same for our children, in particular those studying in secondary school. Encourage children to have a hobby or an interest that can give them an outlet away from studying, giving them some balance in their lives. This will also help them find some emotional balance. It is important that we as adults do the same.
So, find that five or ten minutes to go outside with your kids or read a book with them at night. Have those reassuring cuddles that remind them they are special, safe and loved. We all like that feeling, no matter how old we are!