Here are some calm down strategies reported directly from kids and teenagers we work with…
IMAGERY (Seeing is Beleiving) 1.Think of a “happy place” or relaxing scene. I often ask kids to think about where they have been that they enjoyed, or what familiar places make them feel comfortable and at ease. Some choose vacation spots like particular beaches or campsites, while others say their own beds or another relative’s home. I love when kids are able to get very creative and come up with their own imaginary scenario, especially because being creative is therapeutic as well! I encourage them to use all their senses trying to imagine what they see, sounds they hear, things they smell and taste, as well as what things feel like. One of my favorite examples is a boy who imagines his mother riding a fuzzy pink unicorn under a rainbow while he sits on a couch and plays video games with his best friend
Creating a Kind ENVIRONMENT 2. Find an actual safe place either in the home or outside. Sometimes kids need to be able to walk away and self soothe, especially because you will not always be there to help them. Some like to hide under their beds, and others have a favorite tree in their backyard they can climb. Since it is such an important skill to know when to walk away and take some time to think before a conflict escalates, allow your child the space to be able to make this decision on their own.
3. Pet animals or pets at home. Pets can be soothing and comforting as well. They often sense when someone is upset, and petting them is very therapeutic. Your child can focus their energy on helping to feed, groom, or walk a pet. This can give them a sense of mastery for contributing to household tasks while helping them to calm down.
GROUNDING TECHNIQUES 4. Count to 10, then keep going!. One of my favorite variations is rhyming along with the numbers. (1 fun, 2 blue, 3 tree, etc.) This will distract your child from the conflict, and has the potential to make them laugh as well! Count anything and everything as a distraction for the reason that it can help tune down the emotional arousal in your body.
- 5. Use the five senses as a grounding technique. Describe one thing in the room in detail with the 5 senses. You can also use the 5,4,3,2,1 method (name 5 things you can see, 4 things you can feel, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, 1 thing you can taste). This is a great technique for anxiety as well!
- 6. Calm down jars- Get a clear water bottle with a screw on lid. Mix water, glitter, glue, and add drops of food coloring. Kids can shake the jar when they are upset or anxious and watch the glitter swirl around the jar. This is a great mindfulness activity!
ACTIVITIES/BUILDING MASTERY Activities can help to distract children from anything that was originally bothering them. Building mastery is another way of saying increasing your skillset. This is one of the most important things to do, because everyone feels more confident when they work towards accomplishing a goal….
- 7. Read a book or watch a funny show or video. We all like to get lost in a fictional world sometimes. It gives us time to walk away from what is troubling us, and it can change our emotions for the better.
- 8. Toys/Artwork/Music- Using toys in a creative and imaginative way can provide a temporary “escape” from life stressors. Legos, sketching, coloring, paint by numbers, and any form of art encourages creativity while also providing an outlet for emotions. Music is one of the most commonly used coping skills for teens, maybe because they can relate to certain lyrics. I encourage them to play music that elicits the opposite to the negative emotion they are experiencing.
- 9. Start a journal. I often ask teenagers to keep a notebook on them in order to write down what is bothering them, dreams or nightmares they have had, positive affirmations to help them with difficult times, things they are grateful for, or random thoughts and feelings that they need help identifying and sorting out. They can use the notepad on their phones if they would rather do that than write on paper.
- 10. Hobbies/Activities- Every child has a different activity that they enjoy doing. One client kept a deck of magic cards on her at all times and learned a new trick every week. Other clients have done origami, knitting, sketching, makeup, nail art, gymnastics, dance class, sports. All of these things are distracting, soothing, and help build mastery which can increase self-esteem.