Here’s a simple technique to help you stay calm with your child (or regain composure), teach them a way to regulate big feelings and bring more peace to your household. I often do this with my 4 1/2 year old son when one of us is getting sad, frustrated, angry or losing our patience for whatever reason.
It sounds too simple to be effective, but trust me, it works. Slowing down your breathing and getting more oxygen in your body results in your nervous system calming down, taking you out of fight or flight mode, often very quickly.
1) Prep During a relaxed time, explain to your child that you’re going to teach her something that will help her calm down when she is having big, difficult feelings. You could also spin it to make it more about a fun trick to do, depending on your children and ages. Lie on your back and show her how as you take big breaths through your nose into your belly, your belly goes up. Then you breath it out slowly through your mouth, while making soft blowing sounds, and your belly goes down. You can have her put her hand on your tummy.
Next, ask her to try it. Let it be simple, easy and fun. Pretend you’re squeezing grumpiness out of your tummy or blowing away sadness. You could encourage her to pretend to breathe in happy green bubbles or fairy dust. Ask her for her ideas and try them out. Bringing silliness into the mix is helpful with many kids. When children (or adults) are enjoying themselves, their brains are wired to learn. Don’t stress if she’s not doing it “perfectly.” She’ll get the hang of it eventually.
2) When the Emotional Storm Hits As soon as you see or feel tension is building in you or your child, stop what you’re doing and do some belly breathing in front of your child. You may ask her if she wants to do 3 belly breaths with you, but if she doesn’t, go ahead and do them yourself. As you calm down, she may reflect your energy back to you. Even if you are calm, and she is the one out of control, she may instinctively start doing belly breathing in harmony with you. My son surprises me by doing this often, without me asking him to do any.
If they are cooperating, remember to use their ideas – give them ownership of the process.
3) The Calm After the Storm When it’s appropriate, and the big feelings are calmer, then you can talk about the feelings, what happened and how things can be different next time. From a peaceful place, it’s easier to gently resolve whatever felt so important in the first place.
Last thing to remember – every child, parent, situation is different. This may work immediately, all the time, some of the time, never. It may fit for one of your children, but not for another. It may help you find patience and composure, and your children may never want to try it. Experiment with it today, and please comment below about how this went for you!
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Love and Healing,