Dina (age 8) throws a cup of milk at the sink. “This is not my cup,” she shrieks in a desperate tone. To most, this does not seem an appropriate reaction to the situation.
Got a kiddo who’s struggling with controlling their emotions too? We’ve got some time-tested tips and tricks so you can help your kid calm down.
Top 5 DOs and DON’Ts to Help Your Kid Calm Down
- DON’T allow your child to engage you in a power struggle.
- DON’T tell your child how to feel.
- DO say, “It sounds like you’ve had a bad day. I’m here if you want to talk.”
- DO help your child identify their mood states.
- DO read about feelings with your child.
We’ve got more details and the clinical background for each of these tips and tricks below.
So keep reading to learn more!
Let’s start with describing emotional regulation.
The term “emotional regulation” refers to one’s ability to manage strong feelings and to react appropriately to situations.
The term emotional regulation can be defined as, “a basic ability to manage emotions and control behavior”.
Consider how much symptoms of dysregulation are getting in the way of your child’s happiness.
In No drama-discipline: The whole-brain way to calm the chaos and nurture your child’s developing mind, Dr. Siegel teaches that your child’s emotions are regulated in the “downstairs brain,” which is the part of the brain that is built for survival and engages in the “fight, flight, freeze” responses. When your child is in the downstairs brain, no amount of talking, negotiating, or heaping on of punishments will alter his or her behavior.
It is time to model calm behavior and nurture your child’s calming strategies. Then, and only then, you can begin to process what has happened with your child, and this processing will begin to grow the upstairs brain, where executive functions such as planning and problem solving reside.
At home, keep in mind these “do’s and don’ts.”
Don’t allow your child to engage you in a power struggle. Do let her know calmly that you’re happy to talk if she asks in a neutral or positive tone; don’t respond to rude language.
Don’t tell your child how to feel or discredit or deny any emotions. Do validate and reframe. If your child says “I hate my life.” Don’t say “Your life is wonderful. Do you know how lucky you are? Children are starving in the world.”
Do say, “It sounds like you had a terrible day. I’m here if you want to talk.” Encourage your child to find and to engage in coping strategies, which are activities that he or she finds relaxing or enjoyable.
These strategies could be exercise, listening to music, reading a good book, drawing or writing, having a mug of tea or cuddling with the cat.
Do help your child identify mood states and notice when it is a good time to take a break and to do something to help him or her feel better. Apps for our phones that provide guided meditation and mindfulness practice can help children manage mood symptoms with breathing, progressive muscle relaxation and meditation.
Consider yoga if your child enjoys relaxation and wants to learn more ways to relax their muscles and to use breathing to remain calm.
Do read about feelings. A good book for a child having temper tantrums is “Soda Pop Head.” The book describes a child who is always about to “blow his lid” over incidents with peers and siblings. He learns to use strategies like deep breathing and the “push, pull, dangle” muscle relaxation strategy to calm down. As he calms himself, he lets a little pressure out of the “bottle” so he does not blow his lid. Reading this book can be a good way to externalize the blame and treat this problem as something that many people struggle with and can work to improve.
We’ve got even more info about Emotional Regulation here.
And, hey, this work is hard! We get it. Get in touch today if you want to talk.