By: Dr. Cat Baker, PhD, BCBA-D
Helping your child remain calm under stressful situations and when emotions are running high requires intentional teaching and practice. These skills and abilities allow kids to navigate their lives with greater ease, confidence, and enjoyment, both at home and at school. Below, we’ll go over 7 tips you can use to teach your child to sharpen these tremendously valuable skills. For further support, we created a free Calming Techniques guide you can download here. We also teach calming techniques as a primary focus during our Spring social skills Bootcamps! Keep reading until the end for more information on our upcoming groups, but in the meantime, let’s go over these quick tips:
- TEACH THEM TO RECOGNIZE KEY PHYSIOLOGICAL SIGNS
When it comes to regulating stressful emotions, self-awareness is one of the most important skills kids can develop. For example, if they learn to recognize that their heart beats faster when they are becoming frustrated, they will be more likely to use coping skills to deescalate that frustration. In order to teach your child to recognize these physiological signs, you’ll need to talk about these signs when your child is feeling calm, and remind them of these conversations when emotions bubble up. Through careful conversation, your child can learn to recognize the rise of a challenging emotion.
- TEACH CALMING STRATEGIES WHEN CALM
As we touch on above, the brain is not in the optimal state for learning when a child is emotionally charged, either positively or negatively. This is a major of the foundation of the positive parenting philosophy. When kids are calm, they actually learn skills faster and more fluently than when they’re agitated. Therefore, you always want to teach calming techniques and strategies when your child is at their best because they’re more capable of learning them during that time. In addition, you’ll want to go over the self-regulatory techniques often to help build the skill.
- LEARN MULTIPLE STRATEGIES/TECHNIQUES
It’s important to teach multiple calming strategies, not just one. Different people will gravitate toward different techniques, and one technique may work better than another in a given situation. It’s helpful to expose your child to a handful of options from which they can pick and choose. There are so many fantastic strategies, like deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation, that are taught through behavioral programming. Also, more casual techniques such as taking a walk, or just spending some time with an animal, can be incredibly beneficial.
- REMIND THEM OF CALMING STRATEGIES
Once your child has gotten closer to mastering a specific strategy, you can prompt them to use what they’ve learned when you see that they’re starting to get frustrated, but not once the negative emotion is peaking. For example. you could point out – “Hey, I’m noticing that your face is a bit red. You might be frustrated. Use a calming strategy.” The keys here are to do the teaching ahead of time and to catch those physiological cues. Over time, your child will learn to recognize those signs more quickly and they may even start to apply calming strategies without your prompting.
- MODEL IT
It’s helpful if you model how to apply some of these techniques yourself. This is true for almost everything when it comes to parenting! It helps to model whatever it is you want your child to do. If you don’t want your child to lose their temper, but you lose yours, you’re sending a mixed message. Try letting your child know when you are getting frustrated and using a calming strategy. This might sound like, “This furniture is difficult to put together and I’m starting to feel frustrated. I’m going to take a sit on the porch and practice some deep breathing to calm down.”
- ACKNOWLEDGE AND REWARD PROGRESS ALONG THE WAY
It’s essential to celebrate accomplishments as you help your child through the process. Reward them in any way you see fit. Just be sure to talk through what they did right and how proud you are of their effort. Be sure to emphasize how the progress benefited them internally, too! Ask your child to talk about how much easier it was to navigate the challenge when they stayed calm. Prompt them to process and understand how these skills make their life a little easier and more fun, too.
- BE CONSISTENT
As with just about everything in parenting, it’s important to be consistent, so, make being consistent a top priority. This requires your time, energy, and patience, but the rewards are well worth all the efforts.
Want some support in teaching your kiddos calming techniques? Sign them up for our Calming & Coping Skills Bootcamp in February. You can view all our upcoming Spring camps and sign up here.
At FCI, we love sharing our favorite books with clients & families, which is why we are so grateful to work with Bookshop to share books with you! This week, we recommend taking a look at Dr. Baker’s must read list of parenting books! If you make any purchase at Bookshop within 48 hours of using our links below, we receive 10% of your purchase, which we use to buy more books to use in session with our kiddos. It’s a win-win!