FOUR Seas blog
by loretta crawford
If you’ve got a little volcano at home, negotiating the simplest things - like putting on shoes - can become a waking nightmare.
Before you and your child get overwhelmed by their emotions, try some of these emotional management strategies.
1. Play “feelings” charades
Try writing down some emotions on a piece of paper (surprise, frustration, confusion, anger, etc) and fold them up. Then take turns picking one and acting it out while the other guesses the emotion. This is a fun game, and will give you a good gauge on where your child is at with their own emotional intelligence, and also their ability to read other people’s emotions.
Also try labelling emotions in other situations, for example: “I can see you’re feeling frustrated right now, do you want to talk about it?” or “I can see you’re disappointed that Lucy didn’t share her toy, do you want to take a break?”
These are great ways to increase your child’s emotional vocabulary so they have words for what they are feeling. Once they have a name for what they're feeling, it should make it easier for them to talk to you about it.
2. Deep breathing
A deep, slow breath in and out can help children manage the tiny frustrations that pop up every day and threaten to blow them off course. Practice doing this with them, focusing on filling their bellies up with air and blowing it out their mouths. Try a technique called “milkshake breathing”, where the child pretends they are blowing their breath through a straw (or use a real one). A few deep breaths can help them calm their little bodies, and provide a distraction from whatever it is that has upset them.
3. Start a mindfulness practice
“Smiling Mind” is a free app which covers a range of short, guided meditations or mindfulness practices for children, from pretending they are a bee in a garden to wiggling about like a piece of seaweed on the floor. This is a fun and easy way to introduce them to a mindfulness practice, especially if they are very young. (If you’re unfamiliar with mindfulness, check out the work of Dr. Kristen Race at www.mindfullifetoday.com)
4. Try calm down yoga
The Childhood 101 blog has free printable posters of yoga posters for kids. The poses come with simple mantras like: “I am calm” and “I am brave.” Just the distraction of the practicing the pose, along with taking a few deep breaths, could be enough to calm your little hurricane before they reach the meltdown stage.
5. The pizza massage
A soothing massage is a great way to manage stress, but this is an extra fun way to do it.
Start by spreading on the pizza sauce (long strokes on the back) and then sprinkle the cheese (dot with the fingers), add the mushrooms (a gentle prod on the back) and so on. Kids love this, especially choosing their own toppings! Experiment with different pressure levels and then ask your child to do the same to you.
6. Role model
This might be the hardest for you, but it is probably the most important tip for you to try.
Choose a time when your child is calm and you can demonstrate how you manage your own frustration. Being stuck in traffic is a good opportunity. As you’re sitting there (running late, your blood pressure rising) remember the little pair of eyes on you. Take a deep breath and say calmly out loud, as if no-one was there: “I am feeling very frustrated by this traffic. I am going to take a deep breath to calm myself down.” Take some deep breaths and then follow up with: “Ah, that feels better.”
And keep doing it. At home, while you’re trying to do 30 things at once, surrounded by chaos, take a deep breath and say: “I’m feeling a bit stressed out. I am going to take a deep breath to calm myself down.”
Will you feel like an idiot? Most likely. But those little eyes will be watching you demonstrate how to keep a lid on it and practise positive self-talk which is another invaluable skill.
As a bonus it will calm you down too and that’s got to be good for everyone.