By: Stephanie Fredericka
Managing and regulating emotions is part of the emotional development of children. Young children rely on parents and caregivers to give them the tools and outlets they need to gain control over their emotions. Parents can do so by allowing children to express their frustration and anger in a safe, nurturing space.
Children do not always have the language and words to label their feelings, and parents can help them with this. Parents can ask questions such as:
"are you feeling angry?
"are you upset?"
"are you tired?"
Validating how a child is feeling to let them know they are heard and understood
is a powerful tool. Adults can then offer children assistance in using coping and calm down strategies to develop their "Coping Skills Toolbox."
Below are five tools to help children express their emotions in positive outlets
and to beginbuilding the strategies with which to self-soothe. These tools can be kept in a "Calming Box."
It's also a great idea to designate an area of the home that is relaxing, possibly with a comfy chair or blanket, that a child can go to when feeling overwhelmed. Building a positive Coping Skills Toolbox can be a fun experience for children!
Playing with Play-doh or Putty
This allows children to release energy and frustration through their hands. This sensory experience allows children to begin to self-regulate as their body begins to calm. It can help to encourage the child to kneed the Play-Doh or make into a ball, and then flatten it with their palms.
Drawing or Coloring
Allow the child to draw a picture of what happened or how they
are feeling. The process of coloring allows little minds to relax and focus on something that they enjoy doing.
Help your child focus on taking big, deep breathes, in for 5 and out for 5. Encourage them to focus on taking big breathes from their belly, holding the breathe in for a couple of seconds before slowly releasing it. Playing soft music in the background will create a warm atmosphere while practicing deep breathing. Bubbles are a great way to get children to practice to focus on their breathe, as they blow to make a bubble! As the bubbles pop allow the child to visualize their worries disappearing.
Create a worry monster
When your child is calm, let him or her design a worry monster out of a tissue box. This box can be used to "eat" worries or triggers that make a child angry. When they are upset prompt him or her to write down what upset them. Then put the piece of paper in the monster to eat! This action allows the child to let their worries go as they see it disappear into the monsters mouth
Simply taking a break
Sometimes a child needs to be distracted from a situation by reading a book, listening to music or taking a walk with an adult. This is also a great opportunity to have kids do a "body scan."
Start at the head and as you work down the body, help the child to notice areas of tension in his or body. Have the child release that tension by relaxing their muscles. This can be done by squeezing and releasing their muscles.
Allowing children to feel, express and work through their frustrations normalizes their experiences and builds positive coping skills! This creates confident children with the power to gain control of their emotions.
Dr. Liz Matheis
Dr Liz Matheis and her team specialize in assisting children and their families with Anxiety, Autism, AD/HD, Learning Disabilities and Behavioral Struggles