As a continuation on our series on building resilient kids, child psychologist Dr. Mary Goodarzi offers some ways you can help your child calm their body during a stressful moment.
When our child becomes dysregulated, we can often tell through their behaviors, as their behaviors are telling us what they can’t find or have the words to express. In order for our child to be able better regulate themselves, we must teach them how to calm their bodies with effective coping skills. With positive coping skills, our child’s resiliency strengthens.
Imagine it like a toolbox, where our child feels all these big feelings, and that is COMPLETELY FINE. It’s how they handle those feelings that will foster their resiliency and future behaviors.
First, it is important to acknowledge that they’re having a hard time:
- “Oh man, I can tell you’re really having a hard time right now. Something is really bothering you.”
- “I get upset when something doesn’t go my way as well. It’s really frustrating sometimes!”
Support with Coping
At this point, it would be helpful to introduce positive coping skills to assist them in regulating their bodies. I like to introduce it as “Belly Breaths”, and you can also refer to it as Teddy Breaths OR Dragon Breaths.
Some other things to try:
- Child Yoga Poses – I personally love the Yoga Pretzels card set on Amazon
- Laying down on a mat/blanket with you and looking up at the sky (clouds, mobile, stargazer light, etc.). This stillness can support your child in practicing mindfulness.
- Once your child has been able to calm down, then you can introduce feeling words so they can learn to express their emotions. “I can tell you were really frustrated. How can you let me know you’re really upset or frustrated without working yourself up too much? Let’s help each other find you ways to let me know.”
When Emotions are Running High
However, sometimes, our child doesn’t want assistance on calming their bodies when they are in the height of their meltdown. In that moment, they aren’t able to comprehend a conversation because their reasoning skills have gone completely out the window at this peak. Sometimes, they would like you to just be with them while they are having an epic meltdown, knowing you will stay no matter what.
- “I can tell you’re having a hard time right now. Mommy/Daddy/Mimi/etc. will be right here. I’m not going anywhere. If you need a hug or someone to sit with, I’m right here.”
- And, just stay put, and usually within a few minutes, they’ll come to you, begin calming down and will go for a hug, and you can introduce the breaths or yoga poses.
- The important thing here is to remain calm and regulated yourself—which is extremely difficult to do, I know. Remember to take deep breaths yourself and even repeat a mantra to yourself to help keep your body and mind calm (while thinking of a million different things, simultaneously).
These practices, when used consistently (do your best!), will help foster your child’s resiliency and behaviors, both in the short term and in the future.
Dr. Mary Goodarzi is a Southern California-area child psychologist and a Piper+Enza expert contributor.