Posts

sensory strategies angry child

Sensory Strategies to Calm the Angry Child

When children are upset, adults are usually able to tell by their behaviors. Some children scream, others cry, throw things or hit someone or something nearby. Below are some therapeutic solutions that can help to calm an angry child safely and effectively.

Sensory Solutions to Help Your Angry Child Calm Down:

  • Provide your child a safe, therapeutic way to release any excessive energy they haveSensory Strategies to Calm the Angry Child from becoming angry. For some children, this may look like hitting their pillow, running, jumping rope, or playing on the swing set. Other children prefer crawling into a safe, but compact space (such as in between a mountain of pillows) or inside of a self-made fort full of cushions, pillows, stuffed animals, and small fidgets. Providing proprioceptive activities, including back rubs, massages, or bear hugs can be helpful tools to use when trying to manage emotional regulation.
  • Teach your child self-calming breathing strategies. When your child is visibly upset or angry, instruct them to breathe in like they are smelling flowers for 5 seconds, and exhale like they are blowing out birthday candles for 5 seconds, for up to one minute at a time. This helps to trigger the parasympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system, which is responsible for calming the body down and reducing stress  (click here for 5 yoga activities to help your child calm down).
  • Be proactive. Use a visual chart to help children remember safe ways to manage their anger. Using language such as, “When I feel upset or angry, I can…” combined with visuals of previously learned strategies (deep breathing, back rubs, fidgets, bear hugs, etc.) can help your child learn how to independently manage anger appropriately.
  • When your child is angry, it is important to avoid immediate punishment. Identify a safe, quiet place for the child to go to so that they can implement self-calming strategies to help better their mood. For younger children, set a visual timer for 5-10 minutes. Let the child know they have until the time runs out to calm their body down, and give them a choice of 2 strategies to help them feel better. For older children, encourage them to set a visual timer to decide on the length of the time-out before they are expected to return to the activity.

Is it Bad Behavior or SPD?

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

 

10 Simple Calm Down Strategies For Teens

 

Adolescence is a time of major development marked by significant changes.  One change that is often recognized during adolescence is an increase in emotionality.  Some teens can be negative, moody, and difficult to communicate with.  Furthermore, hormonal changes during this period of life can lead individuals to experience strong and sometimes unpredictable changes in affect.

Due to these changes in the emotional lives of adolescents, it becomes increasingly important to help your teenagers learn to appropriately cope with discomfort.  In today’s blog, I write about strategies that teenagers can employ to help themselves calm down when feeling upset.  Feeling upset can come from a variety of stressors (and teens have lots of them!).  Different individuals respond to stress in different ways.  The strategies listed here are intended to be starting points for you and your teenage son or daughter to consider.  It’s important to remember that what works well on one occasion may not be as effective the next time.  As teens continue to develop and mature, they acquire a better sense of how to take control of various emotional states.  As humans, while we can’t always change the way we feel, we can consider our typical responses to stress and engage in strategies that can help us cope with uncomfortable emotions.

10 calm-down strategies for teens:

  1. Talk it out- Unlike younger children who are still learning to use language effectively in a variety10 Calm Down Strategies for Teens of situations, teenagers have increased cognitive and language skills that help them think about their situations and explore potential solutions. If your teenager is upset, it may be helpful to give him/her the opportunity to talk it out.  This can include identifying the problem, discussing why it’s a problem, potential solutions, and other thoughts/feelings/reactions to the current situation.
  2. Draw – Drawing is a form of expression. Sometimes when individuals get very upset, talking (as suggested above) can be challenging.  Instead, it may help some teens to draw a picture of something they enjoy, or to express on paper how they are feeling at the moment.  Some research has suggested that coloring shapes (such as mandalas) can have calming effects on people.
  3. Write – Writing is yet another form of expression. Teenagers can write about whatever they’d like.  This can serve as a distraction as well as an outlet.  It may be helpful for some individuals to keep an ongoing journal or diary and write about their day to day experiences.
  4. Read – If you’re a reader, then you know that reading can be a soothing or calming activity. Some teens, on the other hand, may hate to read.  Remember, there are many things that one can read: books, magazines, comic books, graphic novels, books on tape, etc.
  5. Music – This is one of my personal favorites. The experience of music can touch the emotional side of many individuals.  Teenagers can chose to listen to a song that describes how they feel.  Or perhaps they can listen to calming, instrumental music while lying down.  Playing an instrument can serve as a great feel-better activity as well!
  6. Exercise – Regular exercise is good for us for many reasons, including mental health. This suggestion, however, speaks to exercising as a form of directing angry or upset energy.
  7. Focus on the positives– For example, make a list of things to be grateful for, or of kind acts you noticed today. During times of stress, our outlook is often clouded which makes it easy to only focus on the negatives.
  8. Change up the setting- Don’t get stuck in a rut. This suggestion is a follow-up from number 6.  It’s easy to get caught in a cycle of negative.  So, when needing to calm down, move to a different room, change the TV/music in the room, adjust the lighting, etc.
  9. Take a step back from the situation – Reflect on what is really making you mad. Often times our minds can become clouded with the many stressors of life.  It’s common for one to displace their anger/frustration on someone close to them.  (for example- A sixteen year old got in trouble at school and upon arriving at home “goes-off” on his younger brother for accidentally bumping into him.  This sixteen year old isn’t really upset at his brother, he’s upset at getting in trouble earlier in the day.)
  10. Say what you need (in a respectful yet assertive way) – Teenagers are continuing to build their self-advocacy skills. Advocating for one’s self includes speaking up when necessary and being able to appropriately request what one needs.

Lastly, parents reading this blog are urged to take a close look at your own calm-down strategies and habits.  Be sure to model how to stay in control of yourself even in the face of frustration or upset.  Do you have more ideas on ways for teenagers to calm themselves?  Please share below!


New Call-to-action

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

 

calm down strategies

10 Simple Calm Down Strategies For Young Children

Calm down”, “Just relax”, “Cool it”, “Chill out”, “ Take it easy”.  Throughout the years of working with parents and their children, I’ve heard all sorts of ways that parents attempt to help their children gain control of themselves.  As children develop from infants, to toddlers, to preschoolers and on, they constantly improve their understanding of various emotional states.  Early on, children have limited resources and knowledge of how to soothe themselves when upset or uncomfortable.  When it comes to children gaining control over their emotions, parents and 10 Simple Calm Down Strategies for Young Childrencaregivers have complicated task.  This task is two-fold.  The first task (as mentioned in a previous blog about the consequences of coddling) is to give children the space to experience upsets and frustrations inherent in life.  The second (and related) task is to provide the nurturing and support necessary for their children to effectively manage the day-to-day upsets and frustrations.

Below is a list of 10 “simple calm-down strategies” that can be used with children as young as toddler-age.  However, before reading on, beware not to be fooled by the word “simple” in the title.  The task of helping your little ones learn to calm themselves in the face of agitation is not simple at all.  On the contrary, this task involves knowing your child and constantly attending to the evolving relationship between you and your child.  It is important to note that the strategies listed below will not have the same impact on all children.  Likewise, a strategy that works well for your child on one occasion may not work as well a different time.  After reading the remainder of this blog, I encourage you to choose a few strategies that seem promising, try them with your son or daughter, and as always, please share your feedback below.

10 simple calm-down strategies for young children:

  1. Color/draw: This can serve as both a distraction as well as a way to express one’s self. With very young children you may just want to set them up with some paper and crayons.  For children a little older, they can draw a picture of what made them upset, or a picture of a time when they were feeling calm and happy.
  2. Music: Music can be used in many different ways. If your children are more active and need to get out some energy, maybe they can have a 3 minute dance party.  Other ways to use this strategy include listening to a favorite song or playing calming instrumental music.
  3. Drink water or have a snack: Being hungry or thirsty can certainly contribute to our emotional state (no matter how old you are!). Parents are advised to closely monitor the use of food as a way to soothe uncomfortable feelings as this should not become a primary tool for coping with stress.
  4. Count to 10: or 50, or 100.  Counting in itself can be calming because it focuses the mind on something else (which means that the mind isn’t focused on the stress).
  5. 5 deep breaths: (Diaphragmatic breathing or “belly breathing”): True relaxation breathing is a strategy that takes practice. To begin, have your little one take deep breaths so that their stomach is pushed out upon inhale and relaxes during exhale.
  6. Bubbles: Closely tied to strategy number 5, blowing bubbles can help children feel calmer on a few different levels.  First, for very young children, simply seeing and popping bubbles can be distracting enough from whatever originally triggered the upset.  For children a bit older, blowing bubbles can encourage the deep breathing that will help bring about a sense of calmness.
  7. Bear hugs: Your little ones can be encouraged to wrap their arms around their body and give themselves a hug. This can feel comforting for young children and it can also serve as a reminder to be kind to one’s self, especially during times of stress.
  8. Play with putty: Putty, sand, Play-Doh, or similar materials can also serve as effective calming tools. Young children should be supervised while using this strategy to ensure safe use of the materials.
  9. Change the scene: During the throes of a tantrum (or even a less intense state of agitation), kids can become stuck. They can become stuck in negative thinking and stuck in maladaptive behaviors.
  10. Take a break: We all need a break sometimes, and children are no different. If it’s a particular task that became too frustrating (for example, a puzzle), encourage your child to walk away from it and return at a later time.  If your child has been on-the-go all day, you can expect that his/her patience will run out faster than usual.

Last, but certainly not least, consider your own calm-down strategies.  Your children learn so much from you simply by observing.  Take some time for personal reflection, do you yell and bang on the steering wheel when you get stuck in traffic?  Are you quick to raise your voice, or do you remain more even-tempered, despite experiencing agitation?  As with all skills you teach your child, don’t forget to model the behavior you wish to see in your little ones.  If you have more ideas regarding calm-down tips for toddlers or young children, please share below!


New Call-to-action

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

 

Relaxation Strategies for Children

How do we teach our children to relax and self-soothe in a society that is inundated with constant stimuli? How do we re-frame the evil term “boredom” into an opportunity to make peace with our inner thoughts and feelings and calm our body? Often times, even adults, need prompting to relax and take a load off.

Here are some examples of activities that both you and your children can engage in to “recharge your batteries” and face the world with a more balanced mindset:

1. Mindfulness—Easier said than done. Mindfulness is the practice of connecting the mind and body to enhance attention and focus to the task at hand.  It means living in the moment and quieting out other “noise” to focus your attention moment to moment. This is a nonjudgmental practice that incorporates all the senses to be fully present. Two of my favorite ways to practice mindfulness are when you are eating or bathing.

  • Eating. We commonly eat in transit, in front of the TV, talking with others, or while multitasking. When we don’t focus on just the act of eating we miss a lot of cues such as satiety, flavor, texture, etc. Practice mindfulness when eating. Prepare your food and sit in a quiet space. Before indulging your food notice your body cues about the food. Are you starving, craving salt, is your stomach growling. Still, before consummation, notice the color of your food, the texture of your sandwich, the way the sandwich smells. We are wanting to eat with all our senses. Take a bite. What does it taste like and smell like? How does the meat and cheese and bread feel in your mouth? How many bites does it take to swallow? What does the sandwich feel like in your stomach? You get the picture. When we focus on the experience of eating in the moment we are more attune to how we feel and our mind and body and in connection.
  • Bathing. The same can be said for bathing. Notice how the water feels on your body, the temperature, the texture. Notice the smells of the product and how it feels to massage your scalp full of shampoo. Remember, use your senses to be present in the experience and try and steer clear of other intrusive thoughts that may enter about your upcoming day.

2. Music—Music can be such a relaxing outlet but make sure that the music matches the mood that you are seeking. Kids commonly want to relax to Top 40 hits, Hip Hop, or other high energy music but this in fact does not aid in relaxation as the body will mirror the energy it is hearing. If you truly want to relax, I recommend jazz or classical in addition to natural noises provided by a sound machine (waves crashing, rain falling, rainforest, etc.). Listening to music can help kids relax in times of transition (after school before homework, after homework and before bed) or when they are emotionally triggered.

3. Deep Breathing and Muscle Relaxation—Relaxing the body and calming our breath can enhance relaxation either when someone is emotionally triggered to be upset or anxious, during transitions, or prior to upcoming stressful events. Deep breathing requires breathing in through your nose for 5 seconds, holding the breath for 5 seconds, and exhaling the breath through the mouth for 5 seconds. Repeat this 5 times. Muscle relaxation includes tightening and then releasing various muscle groups. Sit in a chair or lay down in a quiet space. Start from the bottom of the body and work your way up. Squeeze your feet and toes tightly for 10 seconds and then release. Squeeze your calves for 10 seconds and then release. Squeeze your thigh muscles for 10 seconds and then release. Continue up the body. By isolating each individual large muscle group you are calling your attention to that part of the body and scanning it to release any tension or stress. You can use these strategies when you want to relax or you can make these into habits and incorporate them into a daily routine.

Click here for 10 ways to help your child unwind before bed.