Do you ever struggle with strategies to get your kids to regulate their emotions or behaviour? Try out these ideas, and be sure to let us know how you go.
1. Slow, deep breathing.
Asking a child to do slow breaths can be “boring”. Tell your child to do some “cake breathing” - breathe in like they are smelling a freshly-baked birthday cake, then once they have a lungful of air, tell them to breathe out like they are blowing out birthday candles. Older children can breathe in like they are smelling some other preferred scent (chocolate chip cookies just out the oven, anyone?), and breathe out like they are blowing on a spoonful of hot soup.
Getting active is one of the best ways of shaking off distress. Younger kids love a spontaneous dance party to a catchy song, and older kids can often be redirected into chucking a ball around or having a jump on the trampoline. Bonus points if parents get involved in this one too!
3. Sensory input.
Whilst we don’t recommend using food as a strategy to manage emotions, tasting something with a strong taste is a great strategy for redirecting attention. Other sensory strategies can include touching something squishy or slimy, or pausing and noticing different sounds you can hear inside and outside over a 30 second period.
4. Kindness and compassion.
Doing something special for someone else is a great way to get out of a negative mood and feel good again. Younger kids love making a card or present for someone, and older children can help prepare a meal or self-care activity for an important person.
5. Time in.
Whilst distraction and redirection are great, nothing beats a cuddle and some reflection about and validation of your feelings, no matter what your age is! Take some time to sit with your child and reflect what emotions you see them feeling, and let them know all feelings are ok and you are right there with them.
Olivia Boer is a Clinical Psychologist and Director of Healthy Mind Centre Launceston, a private allied health practice in Launceston, Tasmania.