I am not even going to sugarcoat it, parenting is way harder than I thought it would be. Not the ins and out of the daily grind or the whole raising a human thing; I was prepared for that. But I can admit with full honesty that I was not prepared for the emotions, the extra needs/challenges that come with my typical kids and non-typical kid.
Let’s just say we have been living a rollercoaster of emotions for quite some time now and I don’t see the “exit here” sign anytime soon. So I try each week, each day, each moment, each emotional minute to embrace and accept that this is life right now. And I ask myself how as a parent can I make this season a little smoother. Sometimes our strategies for coping are successful and other times nothing but time and distance can help.
Calming Techniques with Kids
*An important note before we get started; like any skill, these need to be practiced. The best thing you can do for yourself and child is to discuss and practice outside of the moment. We find the car to be a great place to talk about emotions and show the kids ways they can work on calming down. These won’t happen overnight! I am constantly reminding myself I have had 30 years to work on my emotions and they still get the best of me often. Our kids have only had a fraction of that experience.
- Our newest tool is actually an entire system of regulation called Zones Of Regulation. You can read more about it at their website here. This system has been pretty awesome for us, our oldest son, especially. It assigns a color to emotions/feelings/actions. Such as the red zone being anger, out of control, not calm, etc… We have found that the more simple it is, such as assigning a picture or color to his feelings, the better he can process and thus calm down and move forward. Make sure to hop on Pinterest or Teachers Pay Teachers…even a google search can provide so many resources to print, read, and utilize that may speak to your particular child. I found some Star Wars and Paw Patrol printables that my son connected with.
- I would be remiss and a cheat if I tried to take credit for a lot of the ideas and support and strategies we have come across. I have this helpful (but very annoying to my husband) trait called: researcher. My need to click and click and continue to click down the rabbit hole can be a strength and a weakness. Thankfully, this skill has served me well in regards to parenting a kid with extra needs and I have come across some really amazing moms who have put their blood, sweat, and tears out there so they can help others and share their stories. I have found articles to read, online classes to attend, Etsy tools to purchase, and just general support via social media through these amazing women. Here are a few of them that I turn to time and time.
- Breathing tools are such a useful strategy to calm down. There is real science behind how our breath calms and centers our bodies. Sometimes just giving reminders to take deep breaths is enough. Other times we need to, “Smell the flowers; blow the bubbles.” We also do animal breaths or counting breaths. We will even breathe up and down our fingers as we trace them. You can make up anything when it comes to breathing. The other day my son just couldn’t settle and I was getting desperate so I pulled whatever random thing I could out of thin air and had him take deep breaths, then try to make my hair move when he blew out. It turned into him trying to blow me out of the room. He started laughing and we got the desired goal of getting regulated again.
- Having a designated calm down zone. We have moved this around a few times, and its current spot is in our master closet. There are fidgets, a projector, books, wiggle seats, and all kinds of other things we have found that may help him calm down. This is basically just a space he can go (more often than not, be sent) to take a break until he is ready to join everyone else.
- This next one isn’t really a tool to use to calm down, but a parenting tool I try to do. I try to be aware of what happens before, during, and after the meltdowns to be able to see if there are patterns or things we can learn from. I also try to be aware of food and water and where we are with all that.
- Visuals are such a simple and useful tool for kids to recenter and ground themselves. They can be so many things, such as printables, books, pictures of themselves, schedules, charts, anything that you think could help your kiddo. We have been told visuals are an important tool to use with our son because of how his brain works, because simple tasks are often very hard for him.
There are really so many wonderful ways to calm these little emotions and help your kids get back to their normal, mostly sane (as much as a kid can be) selves. It is really just finding the ones that work best for your kid, and keep in mind that what worked today many not always work every day. It’s a constantly evolving process!