Parents Learning Together

Self-Calming Tips Parents Can Use with their Children

Young children generally have limited ability to calm themselves. When their parents provide them with a variety of tools to calm down, they learn how to comfort themselves. What helps will depend on the individual child and the situation.

  • Introduce the calming activity: Watch what works to help your child calm down. Use this information to select a self-calming strategy that will work for them. Find a fun or interesting way to share it at a time when they are not upset. For example, if your child is calmed by looking at books, invite them to create a quiet spot with cushions and books; a space they can use to calm down. You can also teach skills like taking deep breaths by having your child pretend to blow out candles.
  • Link the activity to a change in feelings: Once your child is familiar with the activity, refer to the feelings that are associated with participating in the activity. For example, you might say, “It is relaxing sitting on these comfy cushions; it helps me feel calm” or “Deep breaths help me blow my worries away”.
  • Practice using the tool when your child is calm: Encourage your child to practice using the strategy with stories, games, or by modeling. For example, while drawing with your child, you could say, “I’m going to pretend I’m angry and draw my feelings”. Or when you are experiencing an intense emotion, show your child that you use the strategy too, “I’m feeling very mad right now, I’m going to go to the quiet spot to read so I can calm down.”
  • Prompt your child to use the tool: Use a verbal reminder, “Looks like you are feeling angry” or a visual reminder (you can use an emotion chart) to remind your child to use the strategy. Sometimes giving a choice will help reduce resistance, “What would help you to feel calm – drawing or reading in your special spot?”
  • Back out and let your child use the tool: The end goal is to have your child use the strategy on their own. When your child starts to do this, back out and let them take responsibility. Be sure to comment on how responsible they are for taking time to calm down.
  • Give your child frequent pleasant experiences that let them experience happiness and joy, so they know what feeling good feels like.

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