A Mindfulness Practice to Help a Child Calm Down

When a child becomes unhinged and reactive– angry, sad, incapable of listening, overly physical with a peer or sibling, he/she usually needs a tool to calm down. Physical gestures can support your child to calm down and cope with intense emotions. Remember, too, that children need emotional release. You want them to learn to release emotion without harmful behavior, rather than asking them to avoid their emotional experiences.

Offer your child this tool for moments of overwhelm:

Stop! Press your hands together in front of your heart. Feel your hands pressing.

This tool bypasses the need to overuse language in the heat of the moment– it physically connects the child to the sensations in his/her hands; it grounds her in something concrete other than the sense of overwhelm.

Feel your hands pressing. Press your hands

Children can be overwhelmed by words and choices in the heat of a moment. Providing a physical practice they can use gives them a tool that requires very few words. The practice becomes a bridge out of the overwhelming state they are in.  For very physical children it gives them an alternative to using their bodies/hands in inappropriate ways.

Introduce this practice to the child before she is upset. Invite the child, at a time when he is not upset, to think of a simple gesture or movement he might want to use. One child I shared this with came up with a gesture that involved placing his hands on his thighs and squeezing. He called it “mad squeeze.” Another child choose to wrap her arms around her upper body, like a self hug. Both children were able to deploy these gestures when getting overwhelmed or overly physical with another.

After creating a gesture together to use,  remind the child in moments of overwhelm to use it.

© Traci Childress, 2013.

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