Calm Down Strategies For children and adults Vicki Hilliard, LSW Debby Rockwood, LISW-S Identifying Feelings • Often they don’t know what they are feeling. When they start to recognize their feelings, they can learn strategies or ask for help. • Use Feelings Charts, ready made, or make your own! • Help them recognize how their body feels when they feel certain feelings – heart pumping fast, clammy hands, blood in cheeks, tight fists, etc. • Read books about feelings. Or comment when watching a show; “how do you think he’s feeling right now?” • Color feelings – have them color how they are feeling today. Attach colors to feelings. Deep Relaxation Breathing • Teach them to breathe in through their nose, hold it in the bottom of their lungs, then slowly breathe out through their mouths. Do this 3 times. • Pretend balloon blowing – take a deep breath and hold hands to mouth, then slowly exhale. Pretend to tie it, then watch it float up to the ceiling. • Fold a 3 X 5 card like a tent, practice blowing it across a table with deep breaths. Progressive Muscle Relaxation • Teaching your kids how to use their muscles to relax their bodies is an invaluable skill they can carry right up to adulthood. • You can start when they are lying down but this can be done anywhere, even while sitting in a classroom. You lie down too and show them! Tighten up ALL the muscles in your body – you will look very stiff! Then slowly start at one end, and relax all the way down, from head to toes, until you are limp like a wet noodle. • Regular exercise, walking, biking, etc. is good for stress relief and prevention, too! Anti-Stress Stretches • Finger fan: extend your arms in front of you. Spread your fingers as far apart as possible. • Upper back stretch: sit up straight with fingers locked together behind your head. Keeping your shoulders down, lift your chest and bring your elbows back as far as you can. • Overhead reach: Raise arms with fingers locked together over your head. More Anti-Stress Stretches • Ear to shoulder: Lower your right ear to right shoulder. Repeat for other side. • Waist bend: Reach arm over head at side and bend way over. Repeat for other side. • Knee pull: While seated, bring one knee up to your chest and hold. Repeat for other knee. • Any exercise that crosses the mid-line engages both sides of the brain and calms you! Visualization • Have your child close her eyes, take a deep breath, and think of a relaxing place in her mind. • Let her think about what smells, sounds, and colors are in their place. To help her learn to do this, look at pictures together that express calmness and serenity. Self Talk • This is also called, “cognitive restructuring.” Basically, replacing a negative thought with a positive one. • Temperament – glass half full or half empty. Help them see there is more realistic thinking, not “all or nothing mindset.” • Similar to “reframing.” Instead of “I just can’t do this!” Teach them to use positive self talk, “I did this once, and I can do it again!” Or, “I can do it if I calm down and take my time!” or, “I’m just going to work hard until I get it!” or, “This may be bad, but it’s not the end of the world, and I’ll get over it.” • Remember the quote from Henry Ford, “If you think you can, or you think you can’t, YOU’RE RIGHT!” Example, YES, I CAN camp. Unwind Time • Part of everyone’s day should include an unwind time. • For children, a perfect time is the time before bedtime. Another good one is right when they come home from school, or before an event you know might be stressful. • Establish a bedtime routine for all age children: bath, read a book, listen to quiet music, writing in a journal, etc. No TV or violent video games which have images that are very stressful. Plan Ahead to Avoid Stressful Mornings: Teach children life skills • Start the night before. Homework done and in backpack? • Put the backpack by the door your child will go out. • Lay out clothes the night before down to the socks. This avoids more morning stress than anything else you do. • Create a To-Do List of jobs that have to be done in the morning and throughout the day. Organization can be very calming. • Set the clock or phone at least an hour before time to leave. • Make sure your child goes to bed on time and will have a healthy breakfast either at home or school. Be a Positive Role Model • The MOST IMPORTANT and the best thing you can do is be a positive role model for your child. Talk about and model how YOU handle stress. Ask for help if you need it! • Your school’s Child and Family Counselor is available for more ideas!