How to Really Help a Child “Calm Down!”

How often have you said to your child, ‘Shhh, just relax and calm down!”?

You may have said it lovingly as they were crying and shaking from some upsetting experience. Or you may have said it harshly as they were frantically racing around, yelling and screaming.

But have you ever taught them how to calm themselves down?

Often kids want to calm down, they try to relax, but they can’t quite figure out how to do it – especially when they’re all revved up and need it the most.

That’s where regular mindfulness practice can really come in handy.

Mindfulness is a way of paying attention to what’s going on in the present moment, non-judgmentally. It’s noticing what’s going on around you or inside you, right here, right now. And it’s a life skill that can be developed with practice.

In short, when we train our minds to focus more clearly and kindly, we can more easily find calm in the daily chaos of life.

How Can I Help My Child Be More Mindful?

One of the most basic mindfulness skills is being able to notice what’s going on inside your own body. It’s literally going out of your mind (!) to be present to the bodily sensations you experience.

Why? Because our bodies give us clues to how we’re feeling, which drives our behaviors. We can’t fully focus and function if we aren’t aware of how we’re feeling first. And if we’re not attuned to our bodies, which most of us aren’t these days, we can’t do that very well.

So, have some fun finding a few minutes a day to practice body awareness skills with your kids. It will help them develop greater self-awareness, which will serve as the foundation for better self-control.

You may first practice “putting on” different body postures and faces. Show each other and notice how it feels to have a tense body, angry body, happy body, sad body, excited body, lazy body, restless body, relaxed body.

Pause between each one and reflect out loud what you noticed – what you felt in different parts of your body when you did this. Good to know!

What Do You Notice?

You can then play “I Spy” detective throughout the day, looking for opportunities to notice what your body is telling you. Prompt your child, “What are you noticing in your body, right now?” “What do you notice?”

Then you can add, “What do you need (to calm yourself down, to take care of yourself)?”

Become partners in uncovering the clues as to what your child is feeling in their body, and what they can do about it. Be sure to use sensation words for what bodily feelings they notice – warm or cool, heavy or light, hard or soft, tense or relaxed, restless or stillness.

Often simply pausing to mindfully notice what’s going on can start to change your child’s energy level. By practicing this together, you empower your child to discover what works for them. And you can both enjoy the day, more calmly and peacefully!

Dr. Peter Montminy is a certified instructor with Mindful Schools, one of our course Guiding Teachers, and a clinical psychologist in State College, PA. Dedicated to the emotional well-being of children and adolescents for over 25 years, he provides professional training and private consultations focused on reducing stress in kids, parents, and teachers.  

Mindful Schools transforms school communities from the inside out. Founded in 2007, Mindful Schools’ graduates have impacted over 750,000 children worldwide. You can learn more about our online course offerings, Mindfulness Fundamentals and Mindful Educator Essentials.

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