Children who struggle with emotional regulation skills are often described as impulsive and reactive. Their emotional and sensory “engines” are in high gear. There are internal and external distractions that vie for their attention. That’s why it’s important to develop calming techniques for children. It’s also important to understand the foundational skills necessary to help children solve social problems.
These factors bring to light the importance of exposing the child to Sensory & Calming activities. Think of the following suggestions as “Tools”(strategy) that are part of a child’s “Toolbox”. Depending of the situation, a child can choose a tool to assist with self-regulation and avoid emotional melt-downs. Regular practice is key to success!
Part I focuses on calming activities. When a person is under stress there is an automatic “fight or flight” response. These techniques help to calm the nervous system and regulate emotions.
1. Six Sides of Breathing: draw or imagine a hexagon shape (6 sides). Starting at the left point of the hexagon, breath in (side 1), hold (side 2), slowly breath out (side 3), take another deep breath (side 4), hold again (side 5), and slowly breath out (side 6). Continue until you feel calm and relaxed.
2. Lazy 8 Breathing: draw or imagine a figure 8. Imagine tracing the figure 8 and taking a deep breath in. As you cross over to the other side of the figure 8, slowly let your breath out. Continue breathing around the Lazy 8 until you have a calm body and mind.
3. Calming Sequence: squeeze your hands together; close your eyes, and rub your head; then rub your legs. Repeat the sequence five times, bringing your stress down.
4. Make a Calm Down Jar: you will need a plastic jar, glitter glue, food coloring, and glitter. Put one cup of hot water into the jar, then add about 2 tablespoons glitter glue and a healthy sprinkle of glitter. Stir until the glue melts. Add more water to fill and a drop of food coloring. Put the lid on tight. When feeling frustrated, shake and watch the glitter settle!
5. Develop a Strategy Toolbox:
Developing strategies for your child or student is highly individualized. Children benefit from actively engaging in this process during calm times. Discuss what strategies — both physical (i.e., taking deep breaths) and cognitive (i.e., thinking about the size of the problem) are effective. I like to make this important step interactive by creating an “Emotional Toolbox”. This can easily be done by writing/drawing strategies and storing them in an envelope. You can also take a look at the resource I’ve developed that I use in my clinic here.
I use these techniques regularly in my therapy groups with great success. I’ve also put together an interactive workbook that helps children develop emotional regulation skills–it’s perfect for parents and professionals and works well with programs that correspond emotions to colors (i.e., Zones of Regulation, Pixar’s Inside Out). You can check it out here in my Teachers Pay Teacher store.